The Young Girls Turn 25


Director: Agnes Varda
Year: 1993
Rating: 7.0
Country: France

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.