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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.66:1 Widescreen
  • 1.85:1 Widescreen
  • 2.35:1 Widescreen
  • 1.66:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • French Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono
  • French Dolby Surround
  • French Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • French PCM Mono
  • French DTS-HD 5.1 Surround
  • French DTS-HD 2.0 Surround
  • English subtitles
  • 13 Discs
FEATURES
  • Two documentaries by filmmaker Agnès Varda: The World of Jacques Demy (1995) and The Young Girls Turn 25 (1993)
  • Four short films by director Jacques Demy: Les horizons morts (1951), Le sabotier du Val de Loire (1956), Ars (1959), and La luxure (1962)
  • Jacques Demy, A to Z, a new visual essay by critic James Quandt
  • Archival interviews with Demy, composer Michel Legrand, and actors Jeanne Moreau, Catherine Deneuve, Jean Marais, and Jacques Perrin
  • Once Upon a Time . . . "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg," a 2008 documentary
  • Episode from Behind the Screen, a 1966 series about the making of Young Girls
  • "Donkey Skin" Illustrated, a 2008 program on the many versions of Charles Perrault's fairy tale
  • "Donkey Skin" and the Thinkers, a 2008 program featuring critic Camille Tabouley
  • New conversation between Demy biographer Jean-Pierre Berthomé and costume designer Jacqueline Moreau
  • New interviews with journalist Marie Colmant and film scholar Rodney Hill
  • Archival audio Q&A with Demy
  • Archival audio interviews with Legrand and Deneuve
  • Interview with actor Anouk Aimée from 2012, conducted by Varda
  • Interview with Varda from 2012 on the origin of Lola's song
  • Restoration demonstrations for Lola, Bay of Angels, Umbrellas, and Une chambre

The Essential Jacques Demy

Dual-Format Edition
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Jacques Demy
2014 | 573 Minutes | Licensor: Cine-Tamaris

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $124.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #713
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Release Date: July 22, 2014
Review Date: August 26, 2014

Purchase From:
amazon.com  amazon.ca

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SYNOPSIS

French director Jacques Demy didn't just make movies-he created an entire cinematic world. Demy launched his glorious feature filmmaking career in the sixties, a decade of astonishing invention in his national cinema. He stood out from the crowd of his fellow New Wavers, however, by filtering his self-conscious formalism through deeply emotional storytelling. Fate and coincidence, doomed love, and storybook romance surface throughout his films, many of which are further united by the intersecting lives of characters who appear or are referenced across titles. The works collected here-made from the sixties to the eighties and ranging from musical to melodrama to fantasia-are triumphs of visual and sound design, camera work, and music, and they are galvanized by the great stars of French cinema at their centers, including Anouk Aimée, Catherine Deneuve, and Jeanne Moreau.

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Discuss the film and Blu-ray here   


PICTURE

The Criterion Collection puts together a lovely box set featuring six films from director Jacques Demy entitled The Essential Jacques Demy. The dual-format box set contains six dual-layer Blu-ray discs and seven dual-layer DVDs. Included within are the films Lola, Bay of Angels, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, The Young Girls of Rochefort, Donkey Skin, and Une chambre en ville. Both Lola and The Young Girls of Rochefort are presented in their original aspect ratios of 2.35:1 while Umbrellas is presented in 1.85:1. The remaining films are in the 1.66:1 aspect ratio. All of the high-definition transfers are presented in 1080p/24hz. Each film’s standard-definition presentation found on their respective DVDs have also been enhanced for widescreen televisions.

Setting aside Lola for a second (which I’ll get to separately) all of the transfers found in this set are impressive. Umbrellas may feature the strongest one, with its rich textures and details, vibrant colours, rich black levels, and a very filmic quality. Along with Bay of Angels it also handles the rendering of the film’s grain structure the best.

The other colour films in the set also look rather wonderful. Rochefort has more of a pastelle colour scheme but they’re beautifully rendered, along with whites, and chambre, tonally the darkest film in the set, comes off surprisingly vibrant as well. Donkey Skin maybe only suffers because it falls between all of these other colourful films: though it has splashes of vibrant colours here and there it certainly has the dullest colour scheme of the colour films. Blacks also can crush out some of the shadow details in these other films, and I noticed some pixilation here and there, but nothing obtrusive. Despite these minor issues they’re still brilliant looking presentations.

Bay of Angels, a black and white film, is another truly impressive one in the set. Contrast levels may have been boosted (I can’t say for sure) but past that it looks absolutely wonderful. Tonal shifts are pleasing and naturally run into one another with no banding of any sort present, and film grain looks astoundingly good. Detail levels are absolutely superb and you get a great sense of texture and depth in every shot. It looks fabulous.

So with five films in the set delivering wonderful video transfers one has to wonder what the hell happened with Lola, the first film in the set. The transfer for Lola is an absolute train wreck, easily the worst Blu-ray presentation Criterion has yet put out, and I’d even rank it as one of their worst transfers if I were to include all of their DVD presentations.

I have no idea what went wrong and I really question the professionalism of those involved here. True, I’m not a professional restorer and maybe have no business questioning others, but in no way does Lola look like a film and I don’t think you have to be a pro to spot that since it looks like something you might find on YouTube. It looks like a digital mess that’s been scrubbed away of all textures and details. True, it is the one film in the set not sourced from the negative (the original was burned up in a fire) and was put together from different sources, I get that. That’s not the issue. I’m not complaining about print condition, I’m talking about the fact there is no texture, everything looks like plastic, all film grain has been scrubbed away, the fact there is obvious banding, pixilation, and jagged edges. This image has been digitized to a staggering degree. The image is flat, lifeless, and not one fine detail comes through at all, everything becoming a blurry mess. Contrast levels have been severely boosted as well to the point that in darker scenes all you can make out are blobby masses walking over other blobby masses. There are no varying shades of black; everything is just one tone of a dark gray. It looks like shit. Aside from some of the Mill Creek releases I’ve been subjected to (like The Anderson Tapes–yuck!) this is without doubt the absolute worst Blu-ray presentation I’ve yet seen (and the DVD isn’t any badly, though sadly not much worse.)

Again this isn’t an issue with the source. There are plenty of high-definition transfers that come from later sources, dupes of dupes of dupes, of films made a hundred years ago that, yes, suffer from heavy damage, but they look like a film. They’re still as sharp as the source allows and it in the end it looks like a projected film. This looks like a video game animation. Again I really question how anyone, who should know what they’re doing, could look at this end product and think it looks fine. Criterion had nothing to do with the transfer and got the master from elsewhere (the same master used on other lackluster Blu-ray editions as I understand it) so I don’t entirely blame them since it wouldn’t have made sense to not include the film in the set, even if I do wish they maybe thought about trying to make their own master. But I really hope they at least looked at it and shook their heads.

It’s not a nice way to open the set but be assured by this: the remaining transfers are all gorgeous and this lone monstrosity doesn’t represent the set as a whole, which largely delivers in the video department.

Detailed reviews for each title:
Lola, Bay of Angels, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, The Young Girls of Rochefort, Donkey Skin, Une chambre en ville

8/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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Lola

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Bay of Angels

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Bay of Angels

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The Umbrellas of Cherbourg

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The Umbrellas of Cherbourg

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The Umbrellas of Cherbourg

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The Umbrellas of Cherbourg

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The Umbrellas of Cherbourg

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The Young Girls of Rochefort

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The Young Girls of Rochefort

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The Young Girls of Rochefort

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The Young Girls of Rochefort

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The Young Girls of Rochefort

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Donkey Skin

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Donkey Skin

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Donkey Skin

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Donkey Skin

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Donkey Skin

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Une chambre en ville

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Une chambre en ville

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Une chambre en ville

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Une chambre en ville

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Une chambre en ville

AUDIO

The French audio tracks range from okay to pretty good across all six films. Lola and Bay of Angels both presents 1.0 mono tracks, linear PCM on the Blu-rays and Dolby Digital on the DVDs, while Une chambre en ville presents a 2.0 surround track, DTS-HD MA on the Blu-ray and Dolby Digital on the DVD. The other three films deliver their audio in 5.1 surround, again DTS-HD MA on the Blu-rays and Dolby Digital on the DVDs.

The 5.1 surround tracks are all fairly low key, but both Umbrellas and Rochefort make decent use of the surrounds. Voices, sound effects, and most of the music remain in the fronts but music nicely spreads to the rears and fills out the environment well enough. I didn’t notice a lot of direction but there are some nice subtleties to be found and the tracks are all incredibly sharp and clear. Chambre’s track, presented in good ‘ol 2.0 surround comes off a little more forceful, but like the others the rears are used mostly for music and the track as a whole offers a clean and fairly rich experience.

Bay of Angels’ has a surprisingly full mono track. Range isn’t half bad and voices are clear and articulate. Music can sound a bit rough around the edges but is mostly pleasant. The track as a whole is crisp and clean without any noticeable damage.

Lola’s offers the weakest audio. Unlike the video presentation I blame this simply more on condition of the materials and the relatively cheap nature of the production. The audio is flat and maybe even a bit garbled. Music has no fidelity and the experience is fairly underwhelming, even for a mono track. But again I do feel this has more to do with the material and not a side effect of anything done during the restoration.

Detailed reviews for each title:
Lola, Bay of Angels, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, The Young Girls of Rochefort, Donkey Skin, Une chambre en ville

7/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Criterion’s box set The Essential Jacques Demy presents a wide range of supplements over all of the discs found in the set, offering a fairly thorough examination on the director’s career and individual films.

The first film in the set, Lola, gets a handful of supplements specific to the film, starting with two 3-minute features that are specific to the film: an interview with Anouk Aimée, who simply talks about the character and working with Demy, while the other feature has to do with Lola’s Song (C’est moi, c’est Lola). A couple of surprises here: 1.) Quincy Jones was supposed to work on the song but had to bow out (Varda ended up writing the sone) and 2.) Demy was apparently unsure about putting a musical bit into the film, which I found amusing considering his later films. Unfortunately both are quick and don’t delve too deeply. The fact there’s a real lack of scholarly material for this film makes it even more upsetting there isn’t more about this film.

Also specific is a 10-minute restoration demonstration. Considering the disaster that is the presentation of the film this feature is especially frustrating: we see little about the work being done and we barely get any before/after comparisons. The participants talk about the source materials and the heavy damage. We get some visual samples of the damage, which looks to be primarily large scratches and marks, and even missing frames. From what I can gather from this, though, it doesn’t look like the heavy digital manipulation was done here, or at least not to the extent the final product obviously went through. From monitors we see a couple of shots that actually don’t look too bad: a shot from close to the end where Michel, in his white jacket, walks into a shop, looks a bit sharper and delivers more detail than what we get in the final transfer. Unfortunately the feature doesn’t seem interested in showing us any close before and afters, so it’s still hard to say where this image was messed up.

The remaining features are a number of early short films by Demy. For those more familiar with the director’s brighter more energetic films his early shorts offer the polar opposite. The first film, the 8-minute Les horizons morts, follows a young man who has just lost his girlfriend to another man (or at least that’s how I took it) and then possible contemplation of suicide afterwards. I found it a little “mopey” but enjoyed the second feature much more, the 23-minute Le sobotier du Val de Loire, which I think is supposed to be a quasi-documentary on a clog maker in his later years. While it documents the week of the elderly craftsman, examining him as he takes a log and creates a pair of clogs from it, the film also becomes an examination of one’s own mortality and the awareness of death being around the corner in later years.

Ars is another documentary of sorts, offering a look at the pastor Jean-Marie Baptiste Vianney, who is sort of hard to pin down here: he would at moments appear to be a graceful man and then suddenly a fairly horrific and demanding man. It runs 17-minutes. After this is La luxure, Demy’s 15-minute segment from the omnibus film The Seven Deadly Sins, which featured seven shorts by different directors, with each being about one of the deadly sins. Demy’s is “lust” and it doesn’t go the most obvious route with its subject matter. Two friends (played by Laurent Terzieff and Jean-Louis Trintignant) meet up and talk about “lechery/lust” with one recalling his youth where he first tried to figure out what the word meant and the other finding himself fantasizing about Jerome Bosch’s paintings using some of the women in the café they’re in as the basis. Somewhat aimless and amusing, it’s loose and fun and at the very least presents a rather imaginative recreation of Hell.

All four films look to be upscales of standard-definition sources, yet all four still look better than the main feature.

The disc then closes with the re-release theatrical trailer, which first toots the restoration work. Unfortunately the clips used in the trailer look like they come straight from a DVD.

The supplements just skim over the film most unfortunately, but compared to what’s on the disc for Bay of Angels that disc looks like it has a treasure trove of material. We first get a charming interview with Jeanne Moreau from a 1962 episode of Cinépanorama, which was conducted on location during the filming of Bay of Angels. For a little over 14-minutes she talks about the role and her career overall, admitting to not being all that selective of her roles at first (though now she is very strict) and offering advice to any would-be actors. Despite a number of eye-rolling questions from the interviewer, which she graciously answers, it’s decent personal discussion with Moreau.

Next is an interview with journalist Marie Colmant who talks about Demy’s interest in characters on the margins of society, the outcasts. She talks about a few characters that appear in his films (namely the two in Bay of Angels and a few in Une chambre en ville) and addresses possible influences on the director. She also talks about the appeal of Demy’s films and how she’s made her own daughter watch them. The interview is a little over 10-minutes.

We get yet another restoration demonstration, but this one works a little better than the one found on Lola. Here we actually get to see the work being done, even getting to see someone quickly repair a tear in the film. There’s also more clear comparisons. This one only runs 5-minutes.

The disc then closes with the film’s re-release trailer.

The third title in the set, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, may have the best collection of material. It starts with a 2008 episode from the program A Film and its Time. Entitled Once Upon a Time… “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” it’s similar in structure to an episode from the same program found on Criterion’s edition of Tess: it offers a general production history of the film, while also going over certain landmark moments that were happening at the time and how the film came to somehow address them or at least maybe be some sort of reprieve of sorts from them. For the film’s production it goes over the development of the music through an interview with Legrand, and then gets into detail about the difficulty in finding financing, the casting of Deneuve, its actual production and then the success it had after its release. The documentary also looks at the wave of music being released at the time, women’s rights, and the general malaise that was felt in France after the Algerian war, which is of course a major plot point in the film. There’s also a portion dedicated to the French New Wave and how Demy fit into that, even if his films (at least his later ones) didn’t exactly fit the mold. I actually enjoy these and appreciate that they’re not your typical making-ofs, simply going by the numbers, but they try to also offer some context from the time period. This episode runs around 54-minutes.

Following this is a new 23-minute interview with film scholar Rodney Hill. In it he talks about the French New Wave, how it came to be, and what it represented. Though Demy is a member of the New Wave directors his films can get overlooked as being “New Wave” because they don’t fit the general ideal of what a New Wave film is. He gives a brief history as to how the New Wave was born (a sort of retaliation to what many considered overblown, big budget French films) and checks off a list of common, though not necessary factors that go into a New Wave film: they are usually personal, casual in look (low lighting or at least natural light), freely reference other films and filmmakers, non-traditional editing, and so on. Demy’s Lola and Bay of Angels certainly fit that list, but he argues how his later bigger, more polished spectacles still follow some of these same elements. In all honesty I’m not overly concerned whether Umbrellas or The Young Girls of Rochefort and so on follow whatever “rules” have been associated with the French New Wave, but Hill does actually deliver a fairly decent primer on the movement and the feature probably works best for that.

Criterion next digs up an interview with Michel Legrand and Demy from the archives. From a 1964 episode of the French program Cinépanorama the two talk about the all-musical aspect of the film and how they came to decide to go this route with the film. Though the interviewer keeps questioning Legrand about the validity of a musician doing film scores (he basically keeps asking him questions around how film scores are seen as a “lesser” effort in the music world) it’s actually a fairly decent interview with the two talking about their goals with the. They even ask the all-important question as to whether Demy sings in the shower. The excerpt runs about 11-minutes.

We then get two audio segments from conversations with Michel Legrand and Catherine Deneuve recorded at the National Film Theatre in 1991 and 1983 respectively.

Legrand’s runs about 27-minutes and features the composer talking about his life and his career path. He covers his possible influences (his dad, who left one day to get matches only to never return may have been one) and his training. He’s asked about the German occupation and any possible influences it may have had (he admits that as a child he didn’t really see the danger) and then how he got into film scoring, becoming a sort of darling of New Wave directors. He covers Lola, his first collaboration with Demy after Quincy Jones was unable to write a song for the film, and amusingly recounts how he first saw the film: since Demy didn’t have the money to finish the sound he showed it to Legrand silent but recited all the dialogue himself. He then talks about Umbrellas and other collaborations.

Deneuve’s segment only runs about 11-minutes but she gets into great detail about getting into acting (her sister was the primary reason) and recalls the filming of Umbrellas, the period of which she calls one of her best memories. The film and Demy also taught her a lot about film acting and she shares these lessons, primarily how to work with the camera, which you can’t be completely unaware of.

Both are very solid segments, offering a more personal look at the two and their work while also giving a nice bit of background information about the film’s production.

There is then a 6-minute restoration demonstration showing the work that went into cleaning up the film and restoring its colours, and their desire to keep it true to Demy’s wishes. You get to see some examples and some before-and-after shots. The disc then closes with a theatrical trailer.

Supplements for The Young Girls of Rochefort begin with another archival interview featuring the director, again from an episode of the French program Cinéma. It features Demy and composer Michel Legrand working on the music for the film, trying to figure out how the dance numbers will work and how to end the song correctly, the latter of which becomes a rather touchy subject between the two. They then both sit down to talk about the film and their desire to make a more traditional musical and how they collaborate. It runs 11-minutes.

Criterion has then recorded a new discussion between film scholar Jean-Pierre Berthome and costume designer Jacqueline Moreau, widow of one of Demy’s frequent collaborators, production designer Bernard Evein. During the 26-minute conversation the two discuss Demy’s and her husband’s work together. She recalls how she first met Demy and then their early work together, particularly The Umbrellas of Cherbourg which presented a particular challenge due to the colours that Demy wanted: the basically had to break down every scene in the film and plan the colour schemes precisely for each so nothing would clash. She then talks about her husband’s work, focusing mostly on The Young Girls of Rochefort as they go through his concept drawings.

That interview starts out fairly dry but picks up as it goes. Much better (and competing for best feature on the disc) is a 1966 episode from the French television program Behind the Screen, focusing on the making of The Young Girls of Rochefort. This 35-minute episode spends a lot of time looking at the film’s production design and includes a fairly extensive interview with Bernard Evein, who covers the work they’re doing and gives a great overview of what a production designer does and how one works with the director. There’s also an interview with producer Mag Bopard and a rather intriguing one with the mayor of Rochefort, who talks about some of the issues that came up with letting the crew in and some of the things he’s really enjoyed (like overhearing the musical numbers during work hours.) Local businesses really benefitted from the production, getting free paint jobs and repairs for the film. Most intriguing, though, is behind-the-scenes footage of the twins’ musical number: we actually get to see the musical number performed in both French and English. I wasn’t actually aware of an English version of the film and doing online research didn’t actually yield much about it, but just seeing this footage was a real treat. This was a great find on Criterion’s part, but what’s disappointing about it is that it’s only the second episode of what was apparently a six-part run, so it’s a bit of a letdown not to see the rest of the material since this lone episode suggests a wonderfully engaging behind-the-scenes piece.

Also a strong addition is the 1993 documentary The Young Girls Turn 25. The 66-minute documentary, directed by Demy’s widow Agnes Varda, revisits Rochefort during a festival celebrating the 25th anniversary of the film. She captures plenty of the festivities while also getting interviews with many of the locals and members of the cast and crew (including Deneuve) who all recall the experience. It also shows more English footage from a musical number. It had a profound impact on the town and the documentary really captures that and is all the more fun because of it. As a nice bonus it has also been beautifully restored, where even the production footage looks amazing. It’s also delivered in 1080p/24hz, and looks about as good as the main feature. A great inclusion.

(As a note The Young Girls at 25 doesn’t appear on the DVD here, but actually appears on the second DVD found with Une chambre en ville.)

The supplements then close with a the re-release trailer for the film. Surprisingly there is no restoration demonstration to be found.

Donkey Skin then gets a small smattering of material. Like the other titles Criterion has rounded up an archival episode of a French television show, this time a 12-minute clip from a 1970 episode of Pour le cinema. This one features interviews with Demy, Deneuve, and Merais, all talking about the film, the fantasy element (Demy was really channeling Cocteau here, with Merais being the ultimate reference to Beauty and the Beast,) and the film’s “slightly incestuous” undertone. There’s some great behind-the-scenes footage thrown in making it a decent piece on the making-of the film.

”Donkey Skin” Illustrated looks to be something ported from another release, I’m assuming from overseas. It’s a 2008 visual essay of sorts on the various adaptations and illustrations of the fairy tale. It runs 11-minutes and proves to be fairly fascinating.

Also ported over is probably one of the more useless features in the entire Demy box set: ”Donkey Skin” and the Thinkers, a 17-minute discussion, also from 2008, between film critic Camille Taboulay, psycho analysts Lucille Durrmeyer and Jean-Claude Polack, and 17th Century literary specialist Liliane Picciola. Basically this feature feels like a sort of defense of the film, as though it was added to block off any charges of promoting incest that may follow this release, sort of like how Disney would append Leonard Maltin introductions to some of the cartoon shorts on their collections to deflect accusations of racism, sexism, or promoting smoking. Here they talk about how the film and story would be viewed by a child, who more than likely would see nothing wrong with the story, and then how it may be viewed differently by an adult. They talk about the story and then the film specifically, how each presents its themes and possible psychological implications therein, with some disagreements between them on some subjects. As a whole they all seem to love the film. Unfortunately I couldn’t find much of a point to the feature, other than it being an opportunity for some scholars to spew some uninteresting psychoanalytical babble back and forth and using some questionable terms (like calling a child’s fascination with farts and other bodily functions their “anal period.”) I didn’t find much of value to the package.

Much, much better is an interview with Jacques Demy at the American Film Institute, recorded in 1971. An audio only feature, Demy, in English, talks about how he works with his actors and composer Michel Legrand. He talks about Umbrellas of Cherbourg, going over the difficulties in getting it made initially (all material covered in other features spread throughout the set) and he does get into Donkey Skin as well since at this point it would have been his latest film. He finally talks about his influences (American musicals are an obvious one) and how his love of film developed, which sounds to have started when he saw Les visiteurs du soir. It’s a great open discussion with the director and amazingly feels very brief at 42-minutes.

Une chambre en ville’s supplements focus more on Demy and his work overall with its supplements, with very little specific to the film. James Quandt provides a 61-minute visual essay entitled Jacques Demy A to Z, going over the director’s work and influences using the letters of the alphabet (for example: “B” for “Bresson,” “G” for “Godard”, “H” for “Happy Endings”, “J” for “Johnny Guitar”, and so on). He of course covers Demy’s love for Hollywood musicals, his use of colour and similar use of black and white. He also addresses a few other random subjects from his films, like who was the “Lola” murdered in The Young Girls of Rochefort and also talks a bit about the English version of that film, which there seems to be very little material on. What was actually most interesting about the feature, though, is clips used from his films: Lengthy clips from an obviously restored A Slightly Pregnant Man are scattered throughout fairly liberally and mentioned a lot, almost making me wonder if it was maybe considered a possible inclusion in the set. Model Shop is also mentioned extensively but it’s only presented in film stills.

A nice companion to this overview of Demy’s career are excerpts from a 1987 Q&A session with Jacques Demy at the Midnight Sun Film Festival in Finland. After he mentions trying to sleep when the sun is still out he talks about the stories that interest them and why he’s fascinated with them. He then talks about a few of his films individually and what attracted him to make them, as well as the difficulty he had getting Une chambre en ville made. It’s clearly edited with quite a few obvious gaps but it’s still a great inclusion with the director looking back over his career.

We then get another film by Agnès Varda from 1993, this one an all-encompassing look at the man’s work and life, this one called The World of Jacques Demy. I feel like I’ve seen so many of these types of documentaries lately, primarily in DVD/Blu-ray features and it can get a little tiresome. They all usually follow a certain pattern, chronicling the subject’s life from their rise to their fall, then maybe some comeback and then concluding maybe with their death. Though as a whole this 91-minute film does that it somehow feels rather refreshing. For starters Varda actually doesn’t chronicle his work and life in chronological order and instead jumps around in time to suit a more thematic purpose. I found this aspect made the film a bit more energetic than what I was expecting. It has a couple of great surprises in it as well, the biggest possibly being Varda was able to talk to Harrison Ford about his brief work with Demy: Ford was who Demy wanted for Model Shop (the role went to 2001’s Gary Lockwood instead) but the studio thought Ford would never make it in Hollywood. He shares a wonderful story about actually visiting a sex shop, possibly for some sort of inspiration, and the two were unaware of what to do. Though I think it’s hard overall for Varda to separate herself from the subject (there’s a feeling of “rose coloured glasses” at times) I found it a rather enjoyable and loving portrait of Demy, nicely mixed with new interviews, archival ones, and footage from his films. And as a bonus the film has been meticulously restored itself and the transfer is a solid one.

Criterion then includes another restoration demonstration, this one running about 6-minutes. Restorer Thierry Delannoy comments on how a digital restoration shouldn’t look digital, that it should look like a 35mm projection, because otherwise it would betray the film. (Really wish he had some say on Lola.) It’s a similar presentation to the ones one Cherbourg and Rochefort, showing us some quick fixes to the film, removing scratches and marks, making it look oh-so-easy. Except for an example where missing frames are “replaced”, which can take a half day’s worth of work, but seeing them work you can see they have a real respect for the film and do not want to show they’ve tampered with anything. There’s also a little bit on the sound work and some before-and-after shots for the colour correction. This proves to be one of the more fascinating restorations found in the set as a whole.

The supplements then close with the film’s theatrical trailer.

Two DVDs are also included here. The first dual-layer disc of course includes the film plus the visual essay, restoration, trailer, and Demy interview. The second-dual layer disc is dedicated solely to the two Varda films found in the set. While it of course includes The World of Jacques Demy it also includes Varda’s 1993 documentary The Young Girls Turn 25, which was also found on the Blu-ray disc for The Young Girls of Rochefort.

Though the supplements for this title are strong the big dissatisfaction is that there is actually very little about Une chambre en ville itself, which is incredibly disappointing. In the set this film really sticks out: though the other films do deal with issues, from social to political, this one is the most upfront about it and its tone greatly differs. I found it a rather fascinating film and to have more about it, even some scholarly material, would have been most welcome. In this regard the supplements disappoint but separating them from that they do manage to offer the strongest examination of the director within the set.

Criterion also includes an excellent 67-page booklet featuring a number of essays. Ginette Vincendeau and Terrence Rafferty provide essays on Lola and Bay of Angels respectively, with Vincendeau’s focusing on Lola’s more obvious New Wave traits. Jim Ridley writes about The Umbrellas of Cherbourg and its rise in stature over the years (and even includes a surprising Futurama reference) while Jonathan Rosenbaum covers the The Young Girls of Rochefort and its Hollywood musical influences. These are followed by a nice piece on Donkey Skin, the fairy tale on which its based, and the hints of Cocteau scattered about by Jean-Pierre Bethomé and then Geoff Andrew closes off the films with a defense (more or less) of Une chambre en ville and Demy’s later films, which were dismissed by a majority of critics during their initial runs. The booklet then closes with a short piece about Demy and his hometown of Nantes, also written by Bethomé.

As a whole the set is packed with some great material. There’s some repetition found throughout, and there are a couple that I could give or take (like that “scholar” discussion on the Donkey Skin disc.) There’s also some obvious omissions (more about the English versions of Umbrellas and Rochefort for starters.) Overall, though, the set acts like a crash course on Demy and it’s an effective one.

Detailed reviews for each title:
Lola, Bay of Angels, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, The Young Girls of Rochefort, Donkey Skin, Une chambre en ville

9/10

CLOSING

Forgetting the transfer for Lola (which is terrible) Criterion’s Demy set is a wonderful release. It works as a great primer for the director and his work, with some of his more significant films and a large wealth of extra material. It comes with a very high recommendation.


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