Jacques Demy followed up The Umbrellas of Cherbourg with another musical about missed connections and second chances, this one a more effervescent confection. Twins Delphine and Solange, a dance instructor and a music teacher (played by real-life sisters Catherine Deneuve and Françoise Dorléac), dream of big-city life; when a fair comes through their quiet port town, so does the possibility of escape. With its jazzy Michel Legrand score, pastel paradise of costumes, and divine supporting cast (George Chakiris, Grover Dale, Danielle Darrieux, Michel Piccoli, and Gene Kelly), The Young Girls of Rochefort is a tribute to Hollywood optimism from sixties French cinema’s preeminent dreamer.
The Young Girls of Rochefort is Jacques Demy's fourth film, and word has gotten around Hollywood about this director's unique style and great storytelling. Demy's name got around so much that he landed the legendary Gene Kelly to co-star in his film about a small town called Rochefort where, when a big fair comes to town, fair-goers and Rochefort citizens look for love. Much like Demy's first film Lola, this follows several characters in their pursuit of love and finding the right person.
The central characters are two young women who are twins named Delphine (Catherine Deneuve) and Solange (Francoise Dorleac). Delphine teaches dance while Solange teaches music, and the two are seeking to find their true love and finally move out of Rochefort. When a fair comes to town, two young men, Etienne (George Chakiris) and Bill (Grover Dale), meet the twin sisters and the four hit it off. Meanwhile, the twin's mother Yvonne (Danielle Darrieux) is still pining over the man she left years ago.
Yvonne left her ex Simon Dame (Michel Piccoli) due to his last name being Dame, because she didn't want to be called Madame Dame. Immediately, I didn't like her character because of this, but she realizes the error of her decision. She soon meets a man named Maxence (Jacques Perrin), who is a sailor on leave, but also a painter and poet. Yvonne and Maxence start to fall in love, only to have Simon Dame open a music store in Rochefort not too far from where Yvonne has her own cafe. Soon, all of these character's paths cross, and they don't even know it and they all soon make Yvonne's cafe a central hub when the fair is in town.
As the film progresses, we see each character learn who they want to be and fall in love and take a chance on that special someone, even if it isn't the person they should necessarily be with. Demy captures this perfectly with his screenplay, camera, and excellent musical numbers by the great Michel Legrand. The Young Girls of Rochefort is a very feel good movie and never has a negative outlook on the future, which makes this Demy film one of my favorites. Heck, it was even nominated for several Oscars.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
The Young Girls of Rochefort comes with a 50GB Blu-ray Disc from Criterion and is Region A Locked. There is a Criterion booklet with an essay by Jonathan Rosenbaum, along with information on the crew and technical information on the film. The disc is housed in a hard clear, plastic case with spine #717.
The Young Girls of Rochefort comes with an impressive 1080p HD transfer and is presented in 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The image looks great. According to Criterion, this release was restored in 2K from the original camera negative in 2011 from a remastered print from the year prior. The detail throughout is fantastic. Every interior and exterior shot provides a good amount of death and fine detail that you can make out tiny hairs on costumes and faces.
The colors are bright, robust, and well-balanced. They simply pop off screen. The fine layer of grain gives the picture that natural and filmic look as well. Skin tones look organic and the black levels are deep and inky. The image stability is great and all large specks of dirt, debris, warps, and stains have been removed, giving this video presentation an amazing look.
This release comes with a great lossless DTS-HD 5.1 audio mix in French with excellent English subtitles. The dialogue is always crystal clear and easy to follow. During the big outdoor numbers, the rear speakers really kick in and you are fully immersed in the crowd and the performance.
It's a very well-balanced sound and puts you in the center of the action. The music is excellent and never drowns out any of the sound effects or dialogue. There were no pops, cracks, or hissing to speak of either, giving this audio presentation a great rating.
The Young Girls Turn 25 (HD, 67 mins.) - This is a feature-length documentary filmed by Agnes Varda that discusses Demy's film. Varda and Catherine Deneuve travel around the locations. talking what it was like to film there, while the cast and crew offer their insight into the making of the movie. Definitely worth watching.
Behind the Screen (HD, 35 mins.) - Director Andre Delvaux in 1966 made a six-part documentary about Demy's film, and here is the Part 2 of that documentary, which covers the set designs, rehearsal footage, and much more.
Jean-Pierre Bethome and Jacqueline Moreau ( HD, 26 mins.) - Film scholar Bethome talks to costume designer Moreau about her and her production designer husband Bernard Evein's relationship with Demy and all of the films they worked on together. If you are into costume design, this is a must-see.
Cinema (HD, 11 mins.) - Here is an archival interview from a 1966 episode of the French show 'Cinema', where Demy himself and composer Michel Legrand talk about the music of their films.
Trailer (HD, 2 mins.) - Here is the trailer for the restored movie.
Criterion Booklet - Here is a Criterion booklet with technical information, cast and crew information, and an essay on the film by Jonathan Rosenbaum.
The Young Girls of Rochefort is a blast to watch and features great jazz tunes from Michel Legrand. The rich colors and set-pieces are amazing. The video and audio presentations are amazing too. The extras are well-sorted. This Criterion Blu-ray is Highly Recommended!
Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of Dunkirk on Blu-ray. This post features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, and Final Thoughts sections.