Written for the Criterion dual format (Blu-ray & DVD) edition of The Young Girls of Rochefort, released in a box set, “The Essential Jacques Demy,” in July 2014. This essay is also posted on Criterion’s web site. — J.R.
Braque, Picasso, Klee, Miro, Matisse . . . C’est ça, la vie.
— Maxence in The Young Girls of Rochefort
Life is disappointing, isn’t it?
— Kyoko in Yasujiro Ozu’s Tokyo Story
Broadly speaking, Jacques Demy’s The Young Girls of Rochefort (1967) is loved in France but tends to be an acquired taste elsewhere. From a stateside perspective, its launch in the U.S. in April 1968 was relatively inauspicious and uncertain. In the New York Times, Renata Adler began her two-paragraph notice by saying, “The Young Girls of Rochefort, a musical that opened at the Cinema Rendezvous, is another of those strange, offbeat movies produced by Mag Bodard in which a conventional, gay form is structured over what would be, in its terms, a catastrophe.” (The three other Bodard films she had in mind were Agnès Varda’s Le bonheur, Michel Deville’s Benjamin, and Demy’s previous film, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg.… Read more »
Born July 24, 1944, San Mareno, California. Died May 23, 2013, Chicago, Illinois.
Here’s something I said at a special tribute to Peter held in his presence at Columbia College, on October 4, 2012:
“For me, Peter Thompson is one of those special filmmakers who reinvents cinema for his own purposes, a trait that he shares not only with people like Robert Bresson, Carl Dreyer, and Jacques Tati, but also with filmmakers like Chaplin, Welles, and Kubrick.
“On some level, all of Peter’s films are mysteries and detective stories, but ones in which Peter is inviting us to join him in becoming the detectives, not in giving us puzzles that he knows how to solve but in inventing new ways for us to share in his curiosity. You might even say that part of the mysteries of his films is determining what they’re about, because in addition to reinventing cinema they might be said to reinvent things like subject matter and research as well as still more difficult-to-define entities such as poetry and history and truth.
“Peter has been a friend for about two decades, but I hasten to add that we became friends because of my enthusiasm for his early work, which existed before we ever met.… Read more »
From the Chicago Reader (January 1, 1994). — J.R.
I was 11 when I saw William Dieterle’s 1954 adaptation of the Robert Standish novel Elephant Walk, which was apparently aimed at the female market, and I loved it, though I don’t know what I’d think today. A sort of gothic melodrama in Technicolor about a young bride (Elizabeth Taylor) adjusting to life on a Ceylon tea plantation and the weirdness of her husband (Peter Finch), it climaxes in an elephant stampede. Dana Andrews costars; John Lee Mahin wrote the screenplay. Vivien Leigh was originally cast in Taylor’s part; reportedly you can see her in a few long shots. 103 min. (JR)
… Read more »