The Young Girls of Rochefort Create an Unparalleled World of Songs and Dances

For my money, there’s no greater pleasure than a perfectly executed movie musical. They don’t happen often, but when they do, there’s no high to match the emotional and sensory overload they can cause. Musicals need dynamism to be effective. They challenge the filmmaker to build a world with the ability to sing and dance at any time. It’s not enough to have a character standing in a room, singing how they feel. While the array of this works on a stage, there is very little cinema to be found at this time. In a truly visual medium like film, you could theoretically get the same information from the close-up actor’s face as through song, and there’s no need for a suspension of disbelief of any get away with it. A musical requires inventive direction and design to sell the imaginary circumstances of telling a story through song on film.

Jacques Demy is perhaps the best to have ever done so. “Les Jeunes Filles de Rochefort” is a masterclass to understand exactly how to make your characters interact with their environment to create an exacerbated world of song. Even in a small apartment shared by twin sisters Delphine and Solange (real sisters Catherine Deneuve and Françoise Dorléac, respectively), Demy finds every angle imaginable to distinctly shoot multiple musical numbers without for a moment feeling cramped or paralyzed. . His camera slides along with his performers. Shots morph from wide shots to close-ups and back to wide without cutting, while simultaneously revolving around who on screen. A two-shot with Deneuve and Dorléac will not look like the same two-shot at the end of the plan as at the beginning. And if he just needs to step back and show some amazing dancing, he can do that too.

Then there is the town of Rochefort, over which he apparently had carte blanche. Every person in this town of about 29,000 people exists in the same universe. People walk down the street, dressed in bright blues, yellows and pinks, apparently waiting for the music to start so they can participate in a number. A scene of Catherine Deneuve walking right to an art gallery consists of dozens of dancers performing throws, kicks, and cartwheels down the street, even lifting Deneuve into the air at one point. It’s not a large number, just a chance walk, but it tells you everything you need to know about the universe of the “Jeunes Filles de Rochefort”. While Rochefort’s location is a real place, the actual plane of existence it sits on is a complete fantasy. Because of this heightened state, you can easily buy everything that happens in the movie without risking your suspension of disbelief being shattered. All you have to do is attend and enjoy the magic.


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