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Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Slog Netflix Streaming Club: The Young Girls of Rochefort

Posted by on Wed, May 1, 2013 at 1:20 PM


Mr. Schmader was unable to watch the scheduled showing of this week's entry in the Slog Streaming Netflix Club, Jacques Demy's 1967 masterpiece The Young Girls of Rochefort (Les Demoiselles de Rochefort in the original French), due to "technical difficulties" (protip David, it's in the upper right corner marked "ON"), so he has asked me to spray you with enthusiasm in his stead.


I think it was even better than I remembered it. The music certainly was; while this has long been my favorite soundtrack, enough that I have the two-CD expanded set on my iPod at all times, hearing it again brought new brightnesses to light. Mr. Savage is going to bar me from Slog for saying it, but Stephen Sondheim never wrote this well, nor did Leonard Bernstein or Comden and Green; we're in Cole Porter territory here, only the tunes are better. This is Michel Legrand's masterpiece, and evokes the pulse and bounce of the sixties better than anything I've ever heard.

The story is ridiculous, as it should be. All that delicious nonsense about the feminine ideal who just happens to be one of twin sisters who is breaking up with the owner of the gallery where painting of said ideal is hanging, and pining for the lost lover who left you with child ten years ago but happens to have a music shop a block away, and the most beautiful man in the world who turns out to be the seventy-year-old dancer in the lavender sport jacket you bumped into on the street, and so on—this isn't a traditional movie, it's an opera, and the characters spin around their rooms and streets with the same stylistic grace that the musical themes swirl around the town square. It's reminiscent of a '30s screwball comedy, but this plot has as much verve as the costumes. And how many American musicals have bouncy pop numbers about cutting up an old woman and stuffing the parts in a wicker basket?

Speaking of costumes, I was right—every man in the film does wear white (or the palest of khaki) trousers, and there should have been enough tight bottoms in those trousers to please you if that's your thing; but MY thing is white go-go boots, a short pleated skirt, and a pointy sixties bra in a tight, tight sweater, so I was pretty much in heaven the whole time. While the magnificence of Catherine Deneuve cannot be denied, I think lovely Josette at the cafe, in blue, was my dream date — though there was a whole lot of Hullabaloo goodness going on with the street-dancing team as well.

I could go on about my love for this movie—Christ, I could give you six paragraphs just about that cafe. One of them would be devoted to just the shelf of aperitifs over the back bar. But I'll let you have a go instead, in the comments. I'll just leave you with this: how fabulous is Simon Dame's hobby of cutting out paper soldiers and mounting them on little holders?


Comments (20) RSS

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Will in Seattle 1

I loved the bar cafe in the square and how they used it so well.
Posted by Will in Seattle on May 1, 2013 at 1:25 PM · Report this
MacCrocodile 2
There's so much to say about this, I'm boggled.

I'll start with my least relevant or useful observation: Did Bill remind anyone else of Rory Williams from Doctor Who?
Posted by MacCrocodile on May 1, 2013 at 1:49 PM · Report this
Fnarf 3

The Rochefort Transporter Bridge is a Victorian-era marvel, built from 1898 to 1900 and still in use today, albeit only for bikes and pedestrians in the summer. Trucks full of speedboats and fĂȘtes have to use the new highway bridge. I can't find anything in the regulations about groups of mixed dancers, but I don't speak French; I'm guessing that wiggling about like that is frowned upon.

It's on Google Street View, from the highway:

Charmingly, the street from the bridge into the center of town is now called Avenue Jacques Demy.
Posted by Fnarf on May 1, 2013 at 1:58 PM · Report this
MacCrocodile 4
I gotta say, Fnarf, as fun as this silly nonsense was, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is, by a long shot, my favorite. Maybe it's because I had/got to watch Cherbourg in high school for French class more than once, but I kept hoping Rochefort would turn into something more like that.
Posted by MacCrocodile on May 1, 2013 at 2:13 PM · Report this
Fnarf 5
@4, fine. Be that way.

"Umbrellas" is pretty grand, but the music is better in "Rochefort". Legrand, unlike most soundtrack people, has a genuine feel for jazz, and expresses it in the pop idiom as well as the light classical. A lot of American ears can't really get around that sound, but it used to be popular -- Legrand's sister Christiane was a member of the Swingle Singers, who sold a fair number of records of "vocalese" interpretations of classical standards in the 60s -- you can see one briefly in one of the music shop scenes. The Swingle Singers were an offshoot of the Double Six of Paris, who were produced by Quincy Jones and Dizzy Gillespie, and often featured hard-core Blue Note jazzbos like Bud Powell and James Moody.

Put simply, the tunes in "Young Girls" are catchier yet more intricately linked, plus I just plain love hearing group singing.
Posted by Fnarf on May 1, 2013 at 2:46 PM · Report this
Donkey Skin, the often ignored and profoundly dreadful oddball among oddballs of the Demy/Deneuve oeuvre, should be seen nonetheless. It is based on a a fairly tale that revolves around a princess, a donkey that shits gold and her incestful father.
Posted by Fantomas on May 1, 2013 at 3:17 PM · Report this
MacCrocodile 7
@6 - Holy shit, Demy made a movie out of Donkey Skin? I never realized until now: that is all I ever wanted in my life.
Posted by MacCrocodile on May 1, 2013 at 3:23 PM · Report this
Fnarf 8
@4, I did say "Umbrellas" was a better movie, remember. But I LIKE this one better nonetheless.
Posted by Fnarf on May 1, 2013 at 3:32 PM · Report this
Fnarf 9
@6, incestful father? That reminds me, the next Slog Netflix Streaming Club should be "Butterfly" starring Pia Zadora. I suppose it's possible for "Donkey Skin" to be worse, but I doubt it.
Posted by Fnarf on May 1, 2013 at 3:35 PM · Report this
Whoa, whoa, whoa. Fnarf's getting bylines now?
Posted by fallen angel on May 1, 2013 at 3:36 PM · Report this
MacCrocodile 11
@9 - Read the original Donkeyskin by Charles Perrault. It is stunning. Incest, casual racism, a goddamn donkey that shits motherfucking gold. Just incredible.

Here, have a sparsely-formatted version.
Posted by MacCrocodile on May 1, 2013 at 4:02 PM · Report this
Fnarf 12
@10, custom job, by request, because Mr. Schmader's "Netflix is out" (i.e., he forgot to pay his electric bill).

It does look purty sittin' up there, though, don't it?
Posted by Fnarf on May 1, 2013 at 4:07 PM · Report this
David Schmader 13
12: Fun fact: My stupid Netflix just needed to be "restarted" through my "Apple TV." I'm totally watching this shit tonight and cannot wait.
Posted by David Schmader on May 1, 2013 at 4:17 PM · Report this
Fnarf 14
@11, it sounds like it's a fable, not really original to Perrault, just collected by him. It's a little hard to follow, too -- why did they skin the donkey if it shat gold coins? The character of the donkey isn't fully realized for me. AND, there is a notable lack of go-go boots and pointy sixties bras.

But yeah. I know lots of people who fit a really small ring size, and whose waists can be encircled by two hands. They're called "children".
Posted by Fnarf on May 1, 2013 at 4:46 PM · Report this
Fnarf 15
@13, you'll probably hate it and I'll never get asked to do anything ever again.
Posted by Fnarf on May 1, 2013 at 4:52 PM · Report this
Sandiai 16
I just watched this for the third or fourth time. It is fabulous. The music in particular. I also very much enjoyed Gene Kelly's dancing and singing (in French!).

(Nice Job, Fnarf!)
Posted by Sandiai on May 1, 2013 at 7:08 PM · Report this
Fnarf 17
@16, I hate to tell you this, but that wasn't Gene's voice -- it was dubbed by Donald Burke. All of them were; Catherine Deneuve's was Anne Germain (an original Swingle Singer).
Posted by Fnarf on May 1, 2013 at 7:28 PM · Report this
scary tyler moore 18
george chakiris was a real dish back then.
Posted by scary tyler moore on May 1, 2013 at 7:53 PM · Report this
@12: Color me impressed.
Posted by fallen angel on May 1, 2013 at 9:26 PM · Report this
Sandiai 20
@16, Oh that's OK. His spoken French was good though. Such pretty happy people.
Posted by Sandiai on May 1, 2013 at 11:06 PM · Report this

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