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.) And almost a year later, in her famous essay “Trash, Art, and the Movies,” Pauline Kael noted in passing, “A movie like The Young Girls of Rochefort demonstrates how even a gifted Frenchman who adores American musicals misunderstands their conventions.”
Young Girls is, of course, a French musical, not simply an effort to duplicate a Hollywood one.… Read more »