Les Demoiselles de Rochefort (The Young Girls of Rochefort) (1967)
See one movie by Jacques Demy and you are puzzled. See two and be intrigued. See three and be delighted! With each movie by Demy that I see I am more and more impressed with his artistry and personal vision. While not as challenging or experimental as Les Parapluies de Cherbourg, Les Demoiselles de Rochefort is the most perfect cinematic expression of joie de vivre I have ever seen. Like a giant sugary Demy confection it is delicious excess from beginning to end – with Catherine Deneuve and her sister (playing twin sisters) as the cherries on the top! The legendary beauty of these two leads is the centre-piece of a homage to Hollywood musicals. It is complemented by Demy’s characteristic brightly coloured costume and set design and by Michel Legrand’s jazzy score. Of course it wouldn’t be a Demy movie if it didn’t have some unsettling elements to remind you that this is a French homage to American movies, and not an American movie itself: such as when Solange wonders whether their new outfits will make them “look like whores”; or the presence of an axe murderer in the small town. I would never have expected to enjoy a musical much less such an unrelievedly cheerful one such as this, but much to my surprise I found myself laughing and smiling for the entire duration.