Friday 22 March 2019

The Young Girls of Rochefort (Les Demoiselles de Rochefort) (1967)

Pigerne fra Rochefort
Readers of this blog will know that musicals usually do not sit well with me. That out of context singing and dancing are awkward and that I am of the opinion that musicals are made for a different demographic group.

But then there is Jacques Demy.

His “Les Parapluies de Cherbourg” caught me off-balance. It had all the ingredients of the troublesome musicals, yet it won me over and now “Les Demoiselles de Rochefort” is doing the same thing though for different reasons.

We are still in silly musical-land, even more so than with “Les Parapluies…”. The characters break out in song at every opportunity, there are dancers in the street going about their everyday dancing as if this is just the way things are in Rochefort and the story is as silly and fluffy as only a musical can get away with. Yet, there is an airiness and a joie the vivre that is invigorating. The Book warned that this is a movie that will make you happy and that is in fact exactly what it is trying its best to do.

We are in the seaside town of Rochefort (how many French towns are called Rochefort, seriously?) in the brightest summer imaginable. Yvonne runs a café on the town square while her twin daughters run a combined dancing and music school nearby. A travelling show is in town with the carnies (migrant carnival workers) frequenting the café. All three girls are looking for their dream man and have somebody special in mind.

Delphine (Catherine Deneuve), the blond twin, has seen a painting of herself and is in love with the unknown painter. It so happens that this painter is a sailor who is in love with, and searching for, this imagined girl he has never met and is frequenting Yvonne’s café. Solange (Francoise Dorléac), the auburn twin, has gotten the idea that the American musician Andy Miller is her ideal, not knowing that this guy (Gene Kelly) is in town and caught a glimpse of his dream girl, which is, surprise, Solange. And Yvonne? Well, she walked out on her fiancé 10 years ago while she was pregnant because she did not like his surname, Dame, pretending to go to Mexico, and has regretted it ever since. Lo and behold, Monsieur Dame has opened a music shop in Rochefort where one of his best customers is... Solange.

There people are walking in circles around each other and you get only one guess if they will eventually find their match.

This should not work, it is so silly. These are people who ditch a guy for having the wrong eye color or surname, but it does work. It is so happy a movie, so easy a tone and so absolutely gorgeous pictures that all the rest does not matter. The music by Michel Legrand is, again, very catchy and even the massive amount of dancing does not bother me too much.

I am not sure I could take this for too long, the saccharine level is dangerously high, but for two hours it was just fine and as a little twist Demy teases us in the end. Just when we think were all this is going, he raises a question mark and ends the movie.

In retrospect I mistrust a movie where everybody are beautiful and looking, exclusively, for someone as beautiful as they are. It is conceited and arrogant and the biggest fraud here is that the target of their dreams love them back. In the world I live in such dreams are doomed, but maybe this is why it is such a bliss to see a story play out where tedious reality has been thrown out the window.

Put your silly hat on and enjoy two hours in happy town. This is one to recommend.


  1. I too loved this. It felt so bright and happy and romantic, with some great songs and fabulous costumes. It might not be as deep as Umbrellas of Cherbourg, but making something supposedly superficial be this engaging takes talent. And Demy was extremely good at it.

    1. I think that is what makes Les Demoiselles... work so well. The joy an fun is so contagious that you forget to be critical and is just swept away by it.