The Young Girls of Rochefort is Jaques Demy’s follow-up to his moving, and absolutely stunning The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (one of our favorite films of all time). What he manages to achieve is something no other film has ever done: create a musical with a compelling upbeat and positive momentum that drives the entire film in color, song, and splendor – a “tone of unmitigated joy and exuberance – bordering, for the two lovers of the film, on something close to rapture…(a) happiness, buoyancy, and a joie de vivre that is unmatched in cinema” (de Seife). This movie has the bizarre and unmistakable power to instill a true joy onto whoever watches it, and unlike any other musical ever captured on film, Demy’s costumes, execution, and Legrand’s score deliver something unique (and arguably unparalleled to this day). A remarkable, fun piece of filmmaking that explodes from the opening shots to the end credits.
We watched The Young Girls of Rochefort on Criterion #717.
Man, do I love musicals. I love them in the theater, and when they are stellar, I love them in the movies. The Young Girls of Rochefort is another film from the writers and director one of the greatest movie musicals of all time, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. Unlike Cherbourg, Jaques Demy and Michel Legrand infused The Young Girls of Rochefort with a primarily upbeat, swingy, and optimistic storyline – as a matter of fact, no matter how hard your brain tries to find something that will drag us into a hell of sobbing despair by the end (one never gets over Dancer In The Dark, RENT, and Hamilton), one learns nothing comes of the soldiers marching in the streets nor does “Chekov’s gun” ever fire at anything other than a balloon of paint. Demy cast some big name American musical actors to appear in this film riding on their own successes in West Side Story and many, many other famous musicals. Rochefort’s resulting positive wonder powerhouse cemented a smile on my face and tap in my toes for its duration and truly added itself as a staple of my movie musical favorites list – almost as the yin to Cherbourg’s yang. Not only is it a brilliant film I will watch over and over again, I am angry at myself for never having watched it sooner.
Having watched (and loved) The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, I was surprised and entertained by The Young Girls of Rochefort. It is all rainbows, sunshine, and glitter without any deep dark twists. Unexpected. No need for the umbrellas here. This movie is brilliant with joy. Young and beautiful to watch, Catherine Deneuve plays opposite her real-life sister, Francoise Dorlac. The dancing, music, and the colors of this film go strong and steady till the end. It’s impossible not to smile or sing along. Many parts of this movie were just as visually beautiful as Umbrellas but not nearly as soul wrenchingly depressing.