Demy Monde: The Young Girls of Rochefort

(Les jeunes filles du Rochefort)
(France, 1967, 120 mins, Blu-ray Disc)
In French with English subtitles
CAST Catherine Deneuve, Francois Dorleac, Gene Kelly, George Chakiris, Danielle Darrieux
Classification: PG


Shot in a seaside town transfigured into a Demy dream world with white and pastel buildings and a charming square (40,000 square metres of Rochefort’s facades had to be repainted to achieve the colour scheme), The Young Girls of Rochefort stars Catherine Deneuve and Françoise Dorléac (Deneuve’s real-life sister, who died in a car accident shortly after the completion of shooting) as musically inclined twin sisters Delphine and Solange, whose mother Yvonne (Danielle Darrieux) pines for the memory of her former fiancé, the unfortunately named Simon Dame (Michel Piccoli). The three women, and the men who desire them, cross paths, fail to connect, misunderstand and misconstrue each other, but in the triumphant finale, as in a Handel opera, discover that love is indeed attainable.

Demy’s exuberant tribute to Hollywood musicals fills the widescreen frame with sisters in matching Boeing-sized bonnets, lovesick sailors in butt-hugging bell-bottoms, songs both gay and grisly (one about an axe murder), a dinner party in which the conversation flows in a ceaseless stream of Alexandrines, and Gene Kelly suavely embodying An American in Rochefort (he supplied his own wonderful choreography). Lush, lovely, light-hearted, afloat on a cloud of tulle and rue, The Young Girls of Rochefort is its own Easter parade. "I wanted to make a film where the prevailing sentiment was joyous," Demy said. "One where the audience left the cinema feeling less gloomy than when they went in."

"Masterpiece. My favourite musical." Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader

"Nothing rivals the musical in its ability to externalise emotions like love, longing and ecstatic joie de vivre… for Demy’s lovers, there really is heaven on earth." Geoff Andrew, Defining Moments in Movies

"The movie equivalent of finest vintage Champagne." Trevor Johnston, 1000 Films to Change Your Life