Gotta dance

A particularly delectable image from Jacques Demy’s Les Demoiselles de Rochefort (1967), his exuberant homage to Hollywood dance musicals.  Demy’s use of color, art direction, and costumes was impeccable: Catherine Deneuve, Francoise Dorleac, George Chikiris and Grover Dale look like pieces of candy here.  I can’t say that I loved it the way that I do Demy’s The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964), nor would I agree with Jonathan Rosenbaum’s claim that Michel Legrand’s score here is “easily his best,” but it’s a bold, exquisite film, and the music is indeed stunning—it drives the film, as perhaps it should in a musical, and even though this film isn’t “sung through” (as Umbrellas is) Legrand’s music is nevertheless a constant presence.  My complaint, though, would be that the singing and dancing in this film is so manic, so constant, that it begins to make the film…heavy.  The brightness of the colors and the fast pace of the songs and the leaping choreography and the frenetic musical transitions—sustained for 124 minutes—eventually wore on me.  And it seems to me that the best musicals succeed because they have a wonderful levity that this film, for all its spiritedness and charm and aesthetic gorgeousness, lacks.  Always a joy to see Deneuve, though.  She was twenty-four here, had already appeared in Umbrellas and Roman Polanski’s Repulsion (1965), went straight on to Luis Bunuel’s Belle de Jour (1967), and hasn’t stopped working since—with the exception of 1989 and 1990, she’s made at least one (and often more than one) film every year since.  Meanwhile, her real-life sister Dorleac would tragically die in a car crash only four months after this film’s release.

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