Bay Of Angels

I’ve never been persuaded that Jacques Demy’s second feature (1962, 79 min.) ranks alongside the masterpiece that preceded it (Lola) or those that followed (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg and The Young Girls of Rochefort). It was made during a preproduction delay on Umbrellas and has all the advantages as well as the drawbacks of a relatively hasty preparation. Alternately lighthearted and melancholy, it’s a striking look at obsessional behavior, as a bank clerk on holiday in Nice (Claude Mann) gets involved with a compulsive gambler (Jeanne Moreau); even Michel Legrand’s theme music has a hint of repetition compulsion. The film was clearly influenced in certain particulars by Robert Bresson’s Pickpocket, and in many ways it’s darker than the other early Demys, even the explicitly tragic Umbrellas. Moreau gives an interesting performance despite — or is it because of? — the fact that she’s dressed like a camp icon, whereas the sheer drabness of Mann’s character makes him a very Demy-like exemplar of the quotidian. After Raoul Coutard’s exquisitely lit black-and-white ‘Scope work in Lola, cinematographer Jean Rabier fills the wide-screen frame with sadder gray tones — beautifully restored in 2000 by Demy’s widow, Agnes Varda — that provide an ironic counterpoint to the lush casino, hotel, and beach settings of the Cote d’Azur. In French with subtitles. (JR)

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