Les demoiselles de Rochefort

I spent much of the day grading papers.  I went over to the record store and bought used CDs of Coldplay, The Meters, and Kanye West.  When I returned home, I sat down to watch the Criterion Collection DVD of “The Young Girls of Rochefort,” the musical from Jacques Demy.  I thought it had a lot of winning qualities, and it was very enjoyable.  It was lighter in tone than “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg.”  It was a great idea to cast Catherine Deneuve and her sister as twin sisters.  They do look alike.  Also in the cast are George Chakiris, who brings along with him some of the spirit of “West Side Story,” and Gene Kelly, who still had the screen presence he showed in “An American in Paris.”  There was one shot of him driving a car where you could see lines in his face.  I was amazed that he could smile so much during filming, which was probably difficult.  One thing that was distracting and disappointing was the dubbing of a French voice for Kelly.  I thought that somewhere in the entire country of France Demy could have found one person who could do a better imitation of Gene Kelly’s voice.  Maybe no one practiced the art of impersonation in France in 1967.  In some scenes, it sounds as if we are hearing Kelly’s real voice speaking French dialogue.  I loved the colorful imagery in the film, with the bright color photography.  I had to wonder how much effort the crew put into painting buildings for this movie.  There was one striking shot where Deneuve’s yellow dress matches the color of a wall.  The happier quality of the music and story made this film less revolutionary than “The Umbrellas in Cherbourg,” but it was closer in spirit to those classic MGM musicals.  This was a beautiful little movie that makes you feel nostalgic.  It looked great in this edition, which was superior to the old one I saw a few years ago.  I think Demy would have been impressed with the quality.  This is a movie that I wouldn’t mind seeing a few more times.  I did some reading about Gene Kelly’s career.  His last film for MGM was “Les Girls” in 1957.  He appeared in television specials from 1965 to 1967, and he would direct “A Guide to the Married Man.”  Supposedly, he was offered the job to direct the film version of “The Sound of Music,” but he had a low opinion of the material.  His health would decline during the late 1980s until he suffered a stroke in July 1994, and he died on February 2, 1996.  Catherine Deneuve’s sister, Francoise Dorléac, was only 25 when she died in a car accident outside of Nice.  Some of the people who died on October 21 include Jack Kerouac (1969), Francois Truffaut (1984), Elliott Smith (2003), George McGovern (2012), and Marty Ingels (2015).  Today is a birthday for Ken Watanabe (57), Carrie Fisher (60), and Judge Judy Sheindlin (74).  According to the Brandon Brooks Rewind radio segment for October 21, Curtis Mayfield’s “Superfly” soundtrack was the Number One album on the Billboard chart in 1972. In 1988, the Julia Roberts movie “Mystic Pizza” was released.   In 1994, Woody Allen’s “Bullets Over Broadway” was released.

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