The Young Girls Turn 25
Director: Agnes Varda
The Young Girls of Rochefort from Jacques
Demy in 1967 is a joyous explosion of color, music, dance, youth, vitality
and camera movement as it relates three romantic tales in the town of Rochefort.
It is one of my favorite films with the wonderful music of Michel Legrand
and the presence of Gene Kelly, Catherine Deneuve, Francoise Dorleac, George
Chakiris, Danielle Darrieux and the citizens of Rochefort. It is magical.
Deneuve and Dorleac play twin sisters (and who were real life sisters) in
the small town of Rochefort waiting for life and love to enter their mundane
lives. It does in the form of a youthful troupe of performers who come to
town to put on a show and the accidental bumping of visiting American Gene
Kelly and Dorleac on the street. Three years previously Demy had directed
his other classic musical in The Umbrellas of Cherbourg also starring Deneuve
and the music of Legrand, but Umbrellas increasingly paints a melancholy
picture of life and love. Young Girls though fully immerses itself in romantic
love and ends the story before the bloom begins to fade and fate steps in.
Demy was married to Agnes Varda at the time he was directing this film (and
was till his death). Varda was already a successful director in her own right
with Cleo from 5 to 7 in 1962 and Le Bonheur in 1965. Varda was on the set
filming behind the scenes and being the wife of the director she had access
to everything. Twenty five years later the town of Rochefort held a celebration
of the film and how it put it on the map. Deneuve, Legrand and others involved
in the film show up as the town pays homage to the film with performances
and recounting memories from many of the four months in which the film was
shot. Many of the extras or those with small parts such as the children were
from the town and still live there and are interviewed by Varda who has shown
up to document the occasion.
With this film Varda also pays homage to the movie and to her husband with
a loving documentary of the making of the film. All the behind the camera
filming she had made decades before is quite wonderful as we watch Deneuve
and Dorleac practicing their dancing routines together or Demy working with
Kelly. To a fan of the film it is a lovely gift. Sadly, some did not show
up for the celebration as Demy had passed away in 1990 at the age of 59 and
Dorleac tragically died in a car crash not long after this film was made.
One fact I hadn't realized and perhaps partly explains why there were three
American actors - Kelly, Chakiris (who plays a Frenchman) and Chakiris's
friend in the film played by Grover Dale - involved is that two versions
of the film were produced - one in French and the other in English (the French
actors all speaking English). I wonder if the English version is still available.