I’m finally getting to this, Demy’s feature follow-up to Lola, still in his talky black-and-white period before exploding into song and color the following year. The story of an easily led young man (Claude Mann of Army of Shadows and India Song) who gets hooked on gambling by his friend (Paul Guers) then spends a week in Monaco with excitingly self-destructive career gambler Jeanne Moreau.

“If I loved money I wouldn’t squander it. What I love about gambling is this idiotic life of luxury and poverty. And also the mystery – the mystery of numbers and chance.”

Moreau is a sympathetic outcast – not just a single mom, but one who has abandoned her family for her own freedom, something unimaginable at the time. Claude isn’t so sure about the lifestyle, is inclined to hoard his winnings and wants to get back to normal life eventually, but he immediately falls for Moreau enough to forgive her recklessness and infidelity. She disappears more than once – they do end up together in the final shot, but who knows after that.

T. Rafferty:

Bay of Angels takes place, as Demy’s movies always do, in a kind of Wonderland, where the rules of ordinary life seem to have been suspended for a while. (And like Lola, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, and 1967’s The Young Girls of Rochefort, the setting is near water, in port towns, where everything feels provisional, a stop on the way to somewhere else) … The gambling scenes are montages cut to a quick tempo, using mostly dissolves, and pass by in a dreamlike blur, the wheel turning, the players betting and watching, the croupiers brisk and impassive. In every other scene, the takes are long and fluid, without many cuts — they have a wandering, leisurely rhythm. The alternation of styles gives the movie a tension that has nothing to do with conventional suspense. In Bay of Angels, as in no other movie about gambling, whether the players win or lose feels fundamentally irrelevant. The experience is all that matters.

Sept. 2016:
Watched this again in the beautiful blu-ray restoration, along with Agnes Varda’s documentary. Of course, I take back the comment below that the music is unmemorable – I find no showtunes memorable until I’ve heard them a second time, and now I feel like I’ve known the twins’ theme song forever. Had completely forgotten that there’s a murder in this movie, a family friend who hangs around the café is arrested for chopping up a girl named Lola-Lola (Blue Angel reference?). Re: the English version of The Young Girls, it’s glimpsed in the Varda doc, but apparently nobody thought it worth restoring and adding to this box set, so that’s probably the final word on that.

Transporter Bridge, transport me away:

Oct. 2007:
Not a total musical like Umbrellas was, and no connecting characters between the two, just a brief mention of the town of Cherbourg. This one has the same longing tone as the previous film in parts, but mostly it’s a much sunnier film, a loving, colorful, musical tribute to Hollywood escapist classics.

At this point, Demy was far out of touch tonally with his French New Wave contemporaries. Umbrellas characters were at least affected by the ongoing war, but Rochefort, coming after the more politically-engaged Muriel and Paris Belong To Us and The War Is Over, is in its own insular world for the most part. A few years later, after the May ’68 riots and Godard’s and Marker’s hard turns to the left, after even Demy’s wife Agnes Varda had filmed Black Panthers and contributed to the Far from Vietnam project, Demy would continue to go his own way, filming a musical fantasy fairy-tale with Deneuve and Jean Marais in 1970. By that point, I gather that he was not well-liked by his New Wave filmmaker/critic contemporaries. I don’t think he is well-liked still… I’ve been reading that his career was pretty uneven, and only a quarter of his films are talked about regularly. I guess Demy’s films have had to be recontextualized to be appreciated, removed from the radical French 60’s and enjoyed as pure cinema.

Danielle Darrieux (star of Madame De… and the cheating wife in La Ronde, later in 8 Women & Demy’s Une chambre en ville) plays Yvonne, mother of Catherine Deneuve, her tragic real-life sister Françoise Dorléac (of The Soft Skin and Roger Vadim’s La Ronde remake) and young Boubou.

Yvonne regrets having left Boubou’s father Simon Dame (Michel Piccoli) ten years ago. Delphine (Deneuve) keeps missing her dream man, an artist/poet doing his military service, Jacques Perrin (of Donkey Skin, Cinema Paradiso, the Kieslowski-penned 2005 Hell). Solange (Dorléac) dreams of meeting famous American composer Andy Miller (Gene Kelly). And they all (more or less) meet up and fall in love at the end of the movie.

L-R below: Darrieux, salesman George Chakiris (West Side Story), Josette, romantic Perrin, George’s partner Bill, Gramps

Guess I’m not so musical-savvy, don’t know what to say about this one stylistically. I mean, it’s bright and colorful and fun, less sense of loss and longing than Umbrellas, but I kind of miss that. Gene Kelly is a cutie, fits in just fine.

Katy asks why the mother has to work all day at her diner to get by, while her daughters live high in their fancy apartment and pretty dresses from teaching song and dance lessons. Are the realism and the fantasy rubbing against each other uncomfortably, or is the mother paying for Boubou’s school and still helping to support the girls until they get married? If the latter, I’d hope they’d take a shift at the diner once in a while.

This and Umbrellas had a funny combination of set and location shooting, with Demy doing location shots in the actual towns, but repainting the storefronts to his liking. Nice music, nothing memorable for me, having heard it just once. The girls refer to Jules and Jim and composer Michel Legrand. The camera should count as a cast member since it is engaged by the other characters and dances around with them. A self-reflexive movie then, both in its use of the camera and its reference to musical convention. Bright, solid primary colors abound.

Jonathan Rosenbaum: “There are English-dubbed versions of both Umbrellas and Young Girls; I haven’t seen the latter, but the English version of Umbrellas is so unrelievedly awful that I’m happy to have missed the dubbed Young Girls.” Although if the IMDB trivia page is to be believed, Rochefort was fully shot in English as well as French, so it might be worth hunting down an English version if it still exists anywhere.

Varda cameo as the shortest nun:

Caroline Layde for Senses of Cinema:

However undemanding and lollipop Demy’s films may appear, they present some nuance and sophisticated intertext, and they share a certain charm, vivid and unified. His films inhabit worlds in themselves that may peripherally refer to social reality and the real world but remain content as alternate realities of poetry, color, and music … Demy’s consistency of vision itself justifies his inclusion among the “auteurs”, defined by André Bazin and François Truffaut and expanded by Andrew Sarris as distinguishing themselves with their salient visual language from mere metteurs-en-scène. Demy certainly created a signature style of poetry and innocence and clung to it. Yet this quality also has a sophisticated aspect, suggesting the dream worlds of the surrealists and of Demy’s inspiration, Jean Cocteau. It is fitting that the American critic Gary Carey has described Demy as “the Joseph Cornell of French cinema”.


The Young Girls Turn 25 (1993, Agnes Varda)

The town of Rochefort threw a party and screening for the 25th anniversary, invited Demy’s family, Legrand, the set designer, the producer and cast. Bittersweet memories for some, pure joy for others. Film and video of the festivities along with film clips and Varda’s excellent 16mm footage from behind the scenes.

“The memory of happiness is perhaps also happiness.”

Jacques on set:

2006:
The first time I was too blown away by how wonderful this movie is, so entranced by its beauty and mesmerized by the entirely-sung dialogue to quite believe what I was seeing and hearing. Knew I’d have to see it again soon to make sure the dream was true. Still a nearly perfect movie… even more so now that I understand the singing and the flow and the story, and can just get caught up in it.

2016:
Finally looking perfect on blu-ray – I wasn’t thrilled how some colors on the 1990’s film print restoration jittered like a Nintendo game with too many enemies onscreen. Also I’m watching this for the first time since seeing Lola, so that movie’s lead character Roland Cassard as the jeweler who marries Deneuve and his brief Lola-flashback scene are new sources of wonder.

Meeting Roland at Mr. Dubourg’s place – he’s back there quietly gazing at Geneviève.

Other things noticed: how depressed and sullen Guy is after returning from the Algerian war… the crazy wallpaper in the movie and how it clashes and blends with the brightly colored clothing… and the auto mechanic male lead, from Demy who grew up in an auto garage.

When visibly pregnant Geneviève breaks down and agrees to marry Roland: “If he refuses me as I am, it means he doesn’t have deep feelings for me. If, by some extraordinary chance, he accepts me, I’ll have no reason to doubt him, and I’d be a fool to turn him away.”

And on Guy: “I would have died for him…”

Rosalie Varda played the lovers’ daughter in the final gas station scene – I saw Rosalie again in Uncle Yanco the same day.

Didn’t expect to find a 1954 photo of Chris Marker and Alain Resnais holding a Fernand Léger print in the blu-ray extras:

La Luxure (1962, Jacques Demy)

Demy’s segment on lechery from The Seven Capital Sins anthology. Nice long takes, light musical feel, made right after Lola. Unshaven Jean-Louis Trintignant (My Night at Maud’s) tells his relentless ladies-man buddy Laurent Terzieff (La Prisonnière) about his early misunderstandings of the word lechery, feat. flashbacks and hell-sequences. Jean Desailly (The Soft Skin) and Micheline Presle (The Nun, A Lady Without Camelias) play flashback-Trintingnant’s parents. Quite a bit of rhyming and wordplay that’s probably not coming through in the subtitles.

Terzieff:

Puppy Love (2003, Michael Colton)

Watched some clips from the Illegal Art comp, similar to the shorts that Craig Baldwin showed in Atlanta. In this one, a dog is in love with a pikachu.

Black Thunder (2001, Brian Spinks, Bill Wasik & Eugene Mirman)

Short series of campaign ads for animals running for office.
I’m voting for the bear.

Incident by a Bank (2009, Ruben Ostlund)

Single take recreation of a comically failed bank robbery.

O Velho do Restelo (2014, Manoel de Oliveira)

Actors playing Don Quixote, author Camilo Castelo Branco and two others discuss Portuguese culture, with flashbacks to Oliveira films such as Doomed Love and Non.

Stardust (2013, Mischa Rozema)

Some beautiful celestial effects.

Haiku (2009, Frederick Wiseman)

Lion / Waiting / Legs

Haiku (2009, Naomi Kawase)

Cicada / Sunrise / Flower

Haiku (2009, Alain Cavalier)

Train / Poster of bearded man / Bearded Man
Nicely done, in one take.

Idem Paris (2013, David Lynch)

While art prints of a Lynch painting are being pressed, Lynch stalks the press, enamored with the clanking gears and spinning wheels.

Jacquot de Nantes (1991, Agnes Varda)

A pretty good movie about a kid growing up in small-town France wishing to make films – but if you’re a Varda/Demy fan who knows the backstory, that she’s filming her husband’s childhood memories as he’s dying, it becomes extremely wonderful and moving.

The Beaches of Jacques:

You see inspirations for The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Donkey Skin, Pied Piper and Lola, family life, the love for music and cinema. Largely black and white with splashes of color. Varda flips between childhood events and the film they’d inspire, flashing a graphic of a pointing hand from the Demy Garage sign in between.

Jacquot 1:

“Seeing my name there when I was so young gave me a sense of the fragility of our existence.”

WWII occupies much of the film. His father helps with wartime manufacturing. The kids see Les Visiteurs du soir instead of Baron Munchausen because they’re not allowed see German films. In September 1943 his town is bombed. “There were dead all over town.” Adult Demy tells us he’s hated violence ever since.

Jacquot 2:

Making La Ballerine:

Young Demy spends a season with the clogmakers, works with puppet shows, decides he wants to manufacture theater and film sets. After tiring of the 8mm Chaplin film he’s given, he scrapes off the emulsion and hand-draws his own war story on the film. After a failed attempt at live-action shooting, he continues making films alone – stop-motion this time.

Jacquot 3:

Demy is sent to trade school but hates it, makes his stop-motion and keeps dreaming of cinema. The movie ends quite suddenly. “Later, Christian-Jaque came to Nantes to present his film D’homme a hommes. Christian-Jaque was kind enough to look at my film.” Demy gets to enroll in film school. “I met a woman filmmaker, we made a few films, then she gave me a fine son, and now I paint.”

L’Univers de Jacques Demy (1995, Agnes Varda)

Varda’s doc about her late husband’s films, with some personal details and stories thrown in, and interviews with key participants. Varda says they didn’t work together until Jacquot de Nantes, “so I’ll be discreet in this documentary.”

Demy on the set of Lola:

Covering all his films, in no particular order: Lola (with Anouk Aimee, Marc Michel and Michel Legrand), Three Seats for the 26th (with Francoise Fabian), Donkey Skin (with footage of Jim Morrison visiting the set). “I wanted to recreate things that Marais did with Cocteau.”

A Slightly Pregnant Man, then flashback to the war, the nazi bombing of his hometown. “After something as horrible as that, you get the feeling nothing worse can ever happen. And that’s when you start creating a fantasy world.” A Room in Town with Michel Piccoli. La Table tournante, codirected with animator Paul Grimault at the end of both men’s careers. A hilarious montage of scenes from 1954’s The Rebels of Lomanach in which Demy plays the soldier who dies first in every battle scene, then assisting Jean Masson and Georges Rouquier, who encouraged Demy by producing his clogmaker short.

Umbrellas of Cherbourg with Deneuve and producer Mag Bodard. Model Shop, which was “Lola in L.A.” and would have starred Harrison Ford if the studio hadn’t insisted on bankable star Gary Lockwood (heh). Varda catches up with Ford and asks Aimee about the sequel. Demy: “I called it Model Flop, which it was.” On to Pied Piper (also in English), The Seven Capital Sins (Demy drew Lust), and his weird-looking 1980’s Orpheus story Parking, “a fairy tale where there’s no fairy.” Back to Bay of Angels, then Lady Oscar and the TV movie La Naissance du jour (“I like it because I thought it was unfilmable”) before ending on a high note with Young Girls of Rochefort.

So, having just heard about them for the first time, I watched some of Demy’s early shorts.

Le Sabotier du Val de Loire (1956)

A solemn documentary about the clogmakers of Demy’s youth – or perhaps a half-documentary with a dramatic story added, including a death and a climactic wheelbarrow purchase.

Le Bel indifferent (1957)

Demy’s first non-hand-drawn color work, based on a Cocteau play about a very desperate and lonely woman, waiting all day for her man to return, but seeming even more alone when he does. Cinematography by Franju regular Marcel Fradetal.

Lead Actress Jeanne Allard appeared in Varda’s Les Creatures.

Ars (1959)

Another black-and-white semi-doc, this time about Jean-Marie Vianney, parish priest of the small town of Ars, who’d be named a saint after his death. Demy films museums and artifacts while briefly telling Vianney’s story, but most effectively he shoots the present-day town as if the events were happening currently.

Also watched Les Horizons Morts (1951) again – a very accomplished student film.

And happily, Demy’s homemade animations are available to watch in full, apart from their appearances in the above two features.

Le Pont de mauves (1944)
Bombing of the bridge.

Attaque Nocturne (1948)
Looks like the mugger is walking past the Demy Garage entrance.

La Ballerine (unknown date)
I love the pinholes tracing her path.

Lost Buildings (2004, Chris Ware & Ira Glass)

The story of architectural historian Tim Samuelson and his grade-school fascination with old buildings. Glass of This American Life did the sound and Ware did illustrations in a cool vertical aspect ratio – makes sense, since it’s all about buildings. Tim meets photographer Richard Nickel, and they tour the buildings of their favorite architect together, preserving their memories as they’re torn down. Tragic ending, beautiful story.

Les Horizons Morts (1951, Jacques Demy)

Simple, romantic story. A man alone in his crumbling apartment recalls being dumped by his girl for another man, considers drinking poison but seeing the cross on his wall, decides against it. A student short, I think, with nice camera work.

Glas (1958, Bert Haanstra)

Glassmaking, first by hand then in a bottle factory, edited rhythmically with excellent music added afterwards. At least as wonderful as the other Haanstra shorts I’ve seen. Won the oscar (beating a donald duck short). I should look up his features sometime, since I’m always so impressed by the shorts.

Won in a Closet (1914, Mabel Normand)

Mabel dreams of a neighbor boy, but is pestered by two bumpkins. Somehow her dad and the boy’s mom get trapped in a closet together, Mabel thinks it’s an intruder, and since this is a Keystone production, it ends with twenty people running around and falling over. One nice split-screen shot, but I’d argue with the film preservationists who called Normand a “singular cinematic talent in the making.”

More from the film preservationists:

By the time Won in a Closet was released by Keystone, Normand had already appeared in nearly 150 movies and was a beloved screen presence around the world. As one of the founders of Keystone, the comedienne was well placed to take on new responsibilities and become one of cinema’s earliest female directors. … The story follows the Romeo-and-Juliet romance of Mabel and her beau, played by Charles Avery. As the plot careens into antics and pratfalls, Mabel’s father and Charles’s mother find themselves trapped in a large wooden closet, surrounded by spurned suitors and bumbling neighbors.

A Bashful Bigamist (1921, Allen Watt)

A slight improvement. A woman invents an ideal ex-husband so her new husband will aspire to be better, but she uses a photo of uncle Oswald, who returns from Africa the next day. Much misunderstanding ensues, accompanied by vase-smashing and pistols.

The husband was Billy Bletcher, who would later voice characters in Mickey Mouse cartoons. Cartoons in the intertitles drawn by Norman Z. McLeod, future director of Marx Bros and WC Fields comedies. No music on either of these silent shorts, so I listened to some Ennio Morricone

Area Striata (1985, Jeff Scher)

Dots, lines and patterns. Hyperkinetic geometry. Beautiful indeed but it kinda made me feel ill. Delicate music by a Bach quartet.

Trigger Happy (1997, Jeff Scher)

Negative silhouettes of objects and toys in (of course) rapid motion, set to an extremely happy song by Shay Lynch.

Scher says: “It began as an attempt to make an animated ballet, but as I was shooting the dance turned rowdy, into more of a nocturnal revel. . . . The trigger I was happy about was on the camera, but the title also fits the velocity of the imagery. Much of the animation happens by the rapid replacement of one object with another. It’s the afterimage in your eyes that animates the difference between the shapes, as one is replaced by another, and another”

Caged Birds Cannot Fly (2000, Luis Briceno)

Some very short segments showing different caged birds in would-be humorous situations… either stop-motion, 3D or some combination thereof. I liked the Stereolab song better than the film.

“We’re alone and we stay alone. But what counts is to want something… no matter what the cost. There’s a bit of happiness in simply wanting happiness.”

Oops, we were supposed to end Agnes Varda Month with Jacquot de Nantes but I couldn’t get the subtitles to work, so we watched Jacquot’s own Nantes-set first feature. Not a musical like we’d hoped, but a gorgeous widescreen black and white, slightly melancholic drama with a lovely Young Girls of Rochefort-reminiscent ending.

Our listless hero is Roland (Marc Michel of Le Trou), who just wants to get out of town until he meets his crush from a decade ago, dancer Lola (Anouk Aimée). He sticks around to see if anything will happen between them, but she’s not interested, waiting for her long-lost love (and father of her child), messing around with an American soldier (New Jersey native Alan Scott who speaks hilariously horrid French) in the meantime.

Separately, Roland and the soldier also meet a young teen girl named Cécile, and Roland meets her lovesick mother (Elina Labourdette of Bresson’s Les dames du Bois de Boulogne) who tries in vain to distract him from Lola. Roland kills time at his favorite cafe with a woman in her 60’s (one of the card players in La Rupture) who talks about her son who has been away for too long. Everyone turns out to be connected – she’s the mother of Lola’s missing boyfriend who returns home to them in the final scene – giving Nantes a small-town feel, but it’s made small through the characters, not by the crane shots which make Rochefort look like a stage set.

Demy’s cinema is interconnected: Lola returned in Model Shop and Roland is the guy who marries Catherine Deneuve in The Umbrellas of Cherbourg.

NY Times: “Cécile, it’s worth mentioning, is Lola’s real name. All these people are to some degree reflections of Lola or her vanished lover, and part of the pleasure of the movie lies in watching Demy choreograph this intricate play of mirror images as the characters flicker past one another – sometimes recognizing themselves, fleetingly, but more often not.”

R. Bergan: “Its circular construction, frothiness, and long tracking shots are reminiscent of Max Ophüls, the film’s dedicatee.”

Summer 2015: Watched again from the new blu-ray, replaced screenshots.

I think most Jacques Demy studies begin with The Umbrellas of Cherbourg and end with The Young Girls of Rochefort, pausing to mention that he died young and was married to Agnes Varda. I enjoyed those two so much that I figured his other films couldn’t be that bad, so I checked this out since the video store didn’t have Lola. Not only is it not-bad, but I challenge anybody to find anything wrong with it.

Catherine Deneuve (the same year as Tristana) plays a young princess. A few months after her mother passes away, the king (Jean Marais, not looking too different 25 years after his other fairy-tale film, Beauty and the Beast), with no other attractive princesses in the land, decides to marry Catherine.

Funeral for a queen:
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Catherine, a sheltered princess who spends her days with parrots and blue-painted dwarfs sees nothing wrong with this – after all, she loves her father. Fortunately, her fairy godmother Delphine Seyrig (the year after Mr. Freedom, and looking much classier) knows it’s a problem so gives Catherine a series of costume-design challenges to pose to her father to delay the wedding. When he passes them all, making her dresses the color of the sky, the moon and the sun, she asks for a dress made from the skin of the prize donkey which shits gold and jewels. Seems like a cruel slap at the kingdom, but he does it, and she flees for the country wearing the freshly-killed donkey.

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Doing small-town drudge work in public, but secretly sleeping comfortably in her shack with some magical fairy help, Cath attracts the attention of Prince Charming (Jacques Perrin, who starred in Z after playing the military poet who is driving away in the final shot of Rochefort). He meets her, loses her, then does the Cinderella thing with all the girls in the land, only instead of a slipper it’s a ring that fits only her hand, and announces they are to be married.

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Just then, a helicopter (!) drops in carrying the king, who is going to marry the fairy godmother – a hilarious ending to a story that started pretty dark (death, incest, donkey-killing).

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Demy (in homage to Cocteau?) uses slow motion and reverse effects as cheap movie magic to enhance the fairy-tale atmosphere. Hmmm, and painted people hiding in the walls and Cocteau’s name in the credits and his leading man in the cast – I guess he was an influence after all.

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Lovely music by Michel Legrand and lovely cinematography by Ghislain Cloquet, both returning from The Young Girls of Rochefort.

Dialogue that prefigures the helicopter:
CD: “Can a spell wear out like a dress?”
fairy godmother: “No, but it can weaken like a battery.”
“A battery? What is that?
“Nothing – I’m getting old!”
“But fairies don’t get old.”
“You’re right. I had forgotten.”

Also: birds galore… a giant stuffed white cat as a king’s throne… iris-fades to solid colors a la Le Bonheur… force fields… talking flowers… horses painted red… pretty much a must-see movie.

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Katy, Jan 2013: “I mostly liked it.”