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Delphine and Solange are two sisters living in Rochefort. Delphine is a dancing teacher and Solange composes and teaches the piano. Maxence is a poet and a painter. He is doing his military service. Simon owns a music shop, he left Paris once month ago to come back where he fell in love 10 years ago. They are looking for love, looking for each other, without being aware that their ideal partner is very close... A film whose scenario is much less important than its feeling of euphory, according to the director Jacques Demy. Written by
It's hard to put your finger on exactly what it is about the atmosphere of Jacques Demy's musicals that's so - well - appealing, but "The Young Girls of Rochefort" opens with a pretty big clue: the dancers assemble on what looks like a funny kind of suspension bridge, when suddenly the platform lifts off (as does Michel Legrand's music), to float over the water to the other side. The kids (including "West Side Story"'s George Chakiris) dance away as they drift along in mid-air, giving us the perfect metaphor for what Demy's about to offer: a sunny bagatelle that sets you free from gravity, but which is clearly - well - a little mechanical.
Or perhaps "artificial" is a better word - Demy's always straightforward about what he's doing, and the play of artifice in "Rochefort" is one of its peculiar charms. He doesn't seem to care that the gorgeous Catherine Deneuve and her real-life sister, Francoise Dorleac, aren't really dancers (or that even the "real" dancers are sometimes slightly out of sync) - they simply carry on with their numbers through sheer star power and happy sang-froid. As do their characters - what might count as tragedy in an American musical is always merely accepted in Demy ("The Umbrellas of Cherbourg" being the ultimate example). Only "Rochefort" is about tragedies constantly being averted or diverted - if "Umbrellas" was drenched in a perpetual rain shower, "Rochefort" is pure sun.
Gene Kelly is also on hand to do a few cameos as Francoise's love interest - and his main dance is a charming, quick-time take on what he used to do on a much broader canvas. George Chakiris is, as we remember from "West Side Story", a charming dynamo; Danielle Darrieux is her usual sublime self; and keep an eye out for a young Michel Piccoli as the ardent Monsieur Dam. Michel Legrand's score, again as usual, relies a bit too heavily on its big theme - but it's also about as jazzily sophisticated as musical scores ever got. The choreography doesn't offer any breakthroughs, but there are some charming sequences which are nearly as through-danced as "Umbrellas" was through-sung.
Altogether a charmer - big wigs, even bigger hats, and an exquisite pastel palette - what's not to like?
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