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Saturday, August 25, 2018

Les Demoiselles de Rochefort (1967)

As a departure from my usual Disney-related posts, here is a bit about my "guilty pleasure," the French musical film by director Jacques Demy, "Les Demoiselles de Rochefort," in English "The Young Girls of Rochefort," released March 8, 1967. The first DVD I ever bought in the late 90s, in Annecy, France, was just this film. Recently I also got the Blu-Ray, and now having just received the 5-CD box set with Michel Legrands great music that came out last year, I revisited the movie and had a look at, where in Rochefort the film was shot.

With the help of Google Maps, here is an overview of the locations:
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The film begins and ends around the strange (and defunct) bridge Le Pont Transbordeur, south of the city, but most of the action happens around Place Colbert, the center of the old town, with the office of the town's mayor used as the home of the twins, played by the Dorléac sisters, Françoise and Catherine, the latter using as stage name her mother's maiden name of Deneuve. In the town square we find the coffee shop of Yvonne Garnier (Dannielle Darrieux), with server Josette (Geneviève Thénier), frequented by Maxence (Jacques Perrin) and carnies Etienne (George Chakiris) and Bill (Grover Dale), who visit the town to sell boats and motor bikes. The dancing troupe (from England, many seen in Summer Holiday and Half a Sixpence, and choreographed by Norman Maen) is basically everywhere, and when we are in the square - they are there, as well. But not everything happens in the town square.

Delphine Garnier, the dancing twin, sporting a large blonde wig (played by Catherine Deneuve - the twin, not the wig) visits her "friend," gallery owner Guillaume Lancien (Jacques Riberolles).
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S-W corner of Avenue la Fayette and Rue Thiers.

Solange Garnier, the musician (Françoise Dorléac wearing the red wig) visits monsieur Simon Dame (played by Michel Piccoli) who is the owner of a store with musical instruments.
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S-E corner of Rue Jean Jaurès and Avenue Charles de Gaulle.

Spoiler alert: Subtil Dutrouz (played by venerable actor Henri Crémieux) turns out to be the one who is the "ignoble sadist" who has cut the old lady into 15 pieces and put her in a basket. We see nothing of this except a crowd around the basket.
Maxence meets Solange here, but he only likes blondes.
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N-E corner of Rue du Port and Rue de la République (which had a different name in the 60s, it seems). Maxence and Solange afterwards walk along Rue du Port with the dancing troupe behind them as if it's the most natural thing in the world.

Yvonne Garnier's son Boubou (Patrick Jeantet) has to be fetched from school several times in the film. Yvonne tells Etienne and Bill it is "not to steps behind the square" but it's still a 9 minute walk.
Boubou is quite naughty. No wonder there are bars in the windows!
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The N-E end of Rue Chanzy. This was the Maritime Arsenal (hence the bars in front of the windows), and it seems it is being restored. However, the building on the left of the doorway the kids come out of was completely removed, which is clearly visible in the next images!

Finally, just around the corner from the school, piano virtuoso Andy Miller (Gene Kelly) meets Solange, and afterwards does a little tap dance (with two of the English dancers dressed as sailors). Strangely, his taps were dubbed by some drummer who seems to not have been very interested in hitting the action on the screen. If you want to hear the live sound, however, six seconds (which is most of it) are in the trailer for the film! Also, the English version of the song (mostly sung by Gene!) on the CD set has all the taps, but these do not correctly follow the music if you that sync that to the picture! Sigh...
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We are in Rue Bazeilles looking towards Rue Chanzy.

It seems the last 50 years have not been too kind to these areas in this interesting city. The film itself is such a curious, colorful fun piece of fluff. It has Gene Kelly! George Chakiris! If you don't know it, and your French is pretty good, have a look at it some day!

The Criterion Blu-Ray does have English subtitles, but only on the feature film. Sadly, the 25-year old documentary by (Jacques Demy's wife and filmmaker) Agnes Varda is not subtitled. However, the film was originally shot in two versions! Yes, EVERY shot of song or dialog was shot in French and English! The English version songs fill the whole CD number 3 in the box set! (Amazon US: here!) But when Warner was to release the English version they deemed it too "European" and shelved it! Only few scenes are known, some in the documentary and these on YouTube.
So - do you know anyone good at diving into film vaults?

(By the way, don't ask me why my Google Maps shows streetnames in Cyrillic letters, I do not know!)

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1 Comments:

Blogger Lionel M. says...

Nice post! I visited Rochefort about 15 years ago. I was very surprised to see that Place Colbert, where most of the film takes place, while charming, is certainly not as large and impressive as it seems in the movie. And, unfortunately, while Yvonne Garnier’s café still exists, it is not run by Danielle Darrieux, a huge disappointment!

Sunday, September 2, 2018 at 5:09:00 AM PDT  

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