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Friday Film Review: Les Demoiselles de Rochefort

Les Demoiselles de Rochefort (The Young Girls of Rochefort) (1967)
Genre: Musical/Romance
Grade: B-


Cate mentioned this one in comments on the review of “Moliere” and described the plot as “barking.” Oh, yeah, I agree with that. Another way to phrase it might be wondrous European WTFery. Singing and dancing and romancing and a gruesome murder. It’s got it all!

I’m just going to steal the Netflix synopsis of the plot:

Living in the small town of Rochefort, France, twin sisters Delphine and Solange Garnier (Catherine Deneuve and Françoise Dorléac) yearn for the romance of Paris. But when a charming pair of song-and-dance men (George Chakiris and Grover Dale) comes to town, the sisters get more than they ever dreamed. This effervescent film by acclaimed director Jacques Demy co-stars silver-screen legend Gene Kelly.

It’s the late swinging 60s here and the entire town of Rochefort is filled with young women in short pleated skirts and matching berets plus young men in straight legged jeans and half boots all spontaneously dancing in the streets to an ooh-wah chorus. But the dance moves are more Broadway musical rather than The Frug, The Watusi, The Mashed Potato or the Twist, thank God. The sets are all sunny and bright with lots of glass walled buildings and large open windows. It’s kind of a fantasy town – clean and spiffed up with no garbage cans or double parked cars to be seen. And whoever did the English subtitles deserves an award for matching the rhythm and rhyme of the original French song lyrics.

Catherine Deneuve and her real life sister Françoise Dorléac have a seemingly endless supply of the same patterned dress in different colors which are then topped off by the most amazingly large frou-frou hats. They would have been right at home at the Royal Wedding. It looks like their onscreen mother played by Danielle Darrieux (see my review of “The Rage of Paris”) also goes to the same dressmaker. And isn’t she looking hot for a fifty year old? There’s also a dance number where the sisters wear bouffant wigs and dresses that echo those worn by Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell in “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.”

The music is light and breezy with the same tune being used for several numbers as sung by different characters. It helps if you like it because you’re going to hear it a lot. There’s even a toe taping number that describes the gruesome ax-murder complete with speculation as to where the blood flowed. The characters then appear to forget the fact that a murderer is loose in town until the very end when the identification of the murderer in their midst provokes more bemusement than horror. O-kay….

The plot is fairly simple with separated lovers, newly met lovers and fated lovers all moving about the town and just missing each other until the very end when two of the couples hook up onscreen while the last couple literally drive off into the sunset – or rather the afternoon as it’s about twelve o’clock – in separate vehicles though in the same caravan and we just have to assume that they’ll eventually meet up on their way to Paris.

The Netflix description uses the word “effervescent.” I would also submit “lighter than air” and champagne bubblely. It’s obviously a faux (so much nicer than calling it fake) world but one which is charming. It does have it’s depths even beyond the ax-murder as we learn that one couple has been separated for ten years for a truly silly reason yet in the end, all appears to be either right or headed in that direction. I’d file this one under “oh, why not” or “nice way to spend two hours.” B-

~Jayne

Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.

12 Comments

  1. Lisa Hendrix
    May 27, 2011 @ 06:50:44

    How have I missed this?

    Thanks, Jayne, for pointing me toward a new (to me) Gene Kelly movie. It sounds silly and delicious.

  2. DS
    May 27, 2011 @ 07:32:41

    Great review. I added it to my Netflix que. Now if I could just find some time– I still have a DVD from Feb that I haven’t got around to watching.

    But just in the interest of history in case some future romance author is using DA for research– all of your dances were early 60’s. In complete fairness though, I tried to think of the name of one dance that emerged between 65 and 70 and couldn’t come up with any. I did however find this amazing web site http://www.sixtiescity.com/Culture/dance.shtm It has hilarious contemporary dance step instruction.

    Sorry to go all off topic there.

  3. Jayne
    May 27, 2011 @ 07:48:29

    @Lisa Hendrix: I didn’t know he was in it either until I looked at the list of actors in the film and saw the poster with him on it.

  4. Jayne
    May 27, 2011 @ 07:49:33

    @DS: LOL, well next time I need to be more specific when googling.

  5. cate
    May 27, 2011 @ 09:00:45

    Oh Jayne, you’ve made my day ! Isn’t it delightfully barking ? Pure fizzy rose, & guaranteed to cheer anyone up (even those with subtitle phobia) Plus you get George Chakiris & Gene Kelly WAAAAY out of their comfort zones…
    Now try Truffaut’s Day For Night that’s really stonking too

  6. Jayne
    May 27, 2011 @ 09:09:43

    @cate: You weren’t kidding about the plot! I’ve never seen people so happy about an ax-murder.

    And I had not realized until recently how many people don’t like subtitles. I try and get them on all my DVDs just to be sure I don’t miss any dialogue. A friend of mine was amazed and said she can’t stand watching a film with them – gives her a headache after 5 minutes.

  7. cate
    May 27, 2011 @ 09:41:24

    One of my closest friends refuses point blank to watch any subtitled film, which confuses me greatly, as you loose such a wealth of fab world cinema – Bollywood anyone !
    At the moment I’m being terribly shallow and ogling the most beautiful man I’ve ever seen – Hrithik Roshan, which means I’m on a bollywood jag for the next week or two ! Jodhaa Akbar(film) absolutely rocks !

  8. Estara
    May 28, 2011 @ 03:54:46

    Heh, the subtitle problem is such a purely US/UK thing, I find.
    The rest of the world that I have contact with have subtitles on one film or another on TV regularly – although we Germans quite like our dubbed programmes, too – to the detriment of our English pronunciation skills, I may say. I much prefer the Swedes or Norwegians showing everything subbed (from what I’m told) and picking up the most amazing English pronunciation.

    A regular viewer of Japanese anime probably wouldn’t have a problem because it’s cooler to watch anime subbed ^^ even in the US.

  9. Jayne
    May 28, 2011 @ 08:02:03

    @cate:

    as you loose such a wealth of fab world cinema –

    That! I would have missed some wonderful films that way. Sometimes, even if a dubbed audio track is available on a DVD, I’ll still watch it in the origianl spoken language and with English subtitles just to at least hear it in the native language. And the fact that the synchronization between mouth movements and what I’m hearing being off drives me bonkers.

  10. Jayne
    May 28, 2011 @ 08:06:17

    @Estara: The best done dubbed movie I’ve ever watched is “Das Boot.” The worst are the Japanese 60s horror films.

  11. Geert
    May 29, 2011 @ 11:03:59

    For a great Jacques Demy movie you should see his masterpiece: Les parapluies the Cherbourg (the umbrellas of Cherbourg).

  12. Sunita
    May 29, 2011 @ 13:33:43

    @Geert: Oh I love this movie so much. I have the soundtrack as well. It’s wonderful; not surprising since it’s basically the film!

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