[Film Review] The Young Girls of Rochefort (1967)

The Young Girls of Rochefort poster

English Title: The Young Girls of Rochefort
Original Title: Les demoiselles de Rochefort
Year: 1967
Country: France
Language: French, English
Genre: Musical, Comedy, Romance
Director/Writer: Jacques Demy
Music: Michael Legrand
Choreography: Norman Maen
Cinematography: Ghislain Cloquet
Catherine Deneuve
Françoise Dorléac
George Chakiris
Grover Dale
Jacques Perrin
Danielle Darrieux
Gene Kelly
Michel Piccoli
Jacques Riberolles
Henri Crémieux
Geneviève Thénier
Rating: 6.9/10

The Young Girls of Rochefort 1967

Jacques Demy’s fourth picture, a pendant musical to his previous sing-song delicacy THE UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG (1964), real-life siblings Deneuve and Dorléac (who would tragically perish in a car accident in the mid-1967), play two non-identical twin sisters Solange (Dorléac) and Delphine (Deneuve), lap up their last weekend in their seaside hometown Rochefort , where a fair is scheduled, before take off to pursue their dreams in Paris.

The opening musical number invitingly takes place on a ferry bridge, a novelty to the eyes of this reviewer, and introduces us two dashing carnies Étienne (Chakiris) and Bill (Dale), arriving for the weekend fair, who soon will be both jilted by their sailor-smitten dancing partners and seek succor to the twins. The hub where the movie’s main characters hanging around is the glass-built café in the main town square, owned by the Yvonne (Darrieux, the legendary French cinema icon is the only one in the cast whose singing voice is not dubbed), the mother of Solange and Delphine, she meets a demobbed navy sailor Maxence (Perrin), who is a self-acknowledged poet-cum-painter, sentimentally looking for the ideal female, which unbeknownst to both, is actually Delphine, an uncanny undertow of how Maxence could draw a portrait of Delphine even without knowing her never really takes off, not to mention one of Yvonne’s clientele is a grisly murderer, yes, in Demy’s caprice, homicide and dismemberment are all trivial fodder for laughter.

The twins have their own hang-ups to sort out, Delphine is leaving her pontifical boyfriend, the gallery owner Guillaume (Riberolles), and is dangled to find out who is the painter of the portrait (not that she really puts any effort to it); Solange, a composer and pianist, chances upon a foreigner Andy Miller (Kelly, supple enough to meet the dancing requirements, but overtly too old for the role) in town, mutually swooned over each other, yet they are so swamped in this leisure town, that no time to even exchange their names since Andy is actually the American musician Solange is arranged to meet through Simon Dame (Piccoli), a lovelorn singleton pining for his former fiancé, who broke off their relationship a decade ago simply because his ridiculous name, who wants to be called Madame Dame? And guess who is the petulant quasi-Madame Dame? I will not spill the beans but it is really a freaking small world!

The plot is quite convoluted on paper, but Demy plays it out puckishly and desultorily, punctuates it with dynamically choreographed set pieces and lip-syncing affectation, although the monotony of the saccharine ditties (sorry maestro Michael Legrand!) starts to pall literally after the duet A PAIR OF TWINS, a similar fate in CHERBOURG, but what makes ROCHFORT a shade more inferior is its innate deficiency of empathy and intrigue, even it is an unadulterated feelgood manna, Demy’s coup-de-théâre is way too self-conscious and inundated with smooth-talking levity, all his characters are energetic and emotive outwardly, but cardboard and unstimulating to a fault.

Rochefort is decked out with a variegated Murano-esque enchantment, and all roles are bestowed with an impeccable and eye-catching dress sense, “charming” is high-lighted on its DVD cover, indeed, that’s the apposite word for this chic confectionery, a praiseworthy endeavor notwithstanding, it is also too cheesy for a dispassionate stomach.

Oscar 1967  The Young Girls of Rochefort


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