Films don’t get much better than Les demoiselles de Rochefort, a joyous, colourful and surreal musical about love. In Demys’ world, love depends on chance, and in such a place love at first sight, ideal women and unlikely reunions can exist. This is the third of his films I’ve seen, and while I enjoy Les Parapluies de Cherbourg and Peau D’Ane, this is by far my favourite and in the running for my all time favourite musical. Few films strike me as being so totally in love with life as this, and even in the ironic moments of tragedy (the slasher/murderor songs) there is a bounce in the characters steps as they focus on the romance, and the memories of the parties involved. There is nary a sense of bitterness involved (except perhaps the artist ex-boyfriend, but even his threats are rather empty), and instead of pursuing threads of unhappiness and feelings of jealousy or injustice, the focus is on the emotions that make life worth living.
While so much of this film is an obvious tribute to the hey day of the Hollywood musical, even down to casting Gene Kelly as one of the lovers, the film doesn’t feel derivative for a single moment. When Solange and Delphine are dancing a number that’s an obvious tribute to Hawks’ Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, it’s a positively invigorating take on something so familiar. I love how it’s ironic, but still undeniably in love with the original material. While the opening song in Blondes is (although somewhat in a tongue and cheek manner) about finding millionaires, in Rochefort the song is about love in it’s purest form as they describe it as being similar to the wind and other poetic notions. Back to Gene Kelly, while he was beginning to look a little old, there is no denying he was still on top of his game. He choreographed his own sequences, and gives every moment his all. I love being reminded why he is one of my favourite Hollywood musical staple.
I’m almost at a loss of what more I can say, the performances all around are wonderful, and I haven’t seen a film look this good in a long time. The pastel landscape and clothes adds to the overall atmosphere to the film. It actually “looks” happy, a distinction that’s hard to achieve without being outright cheese-tstic. The only other film that strikes me as channeling this particular emotion so well in it’s visuals is Amelie, but even there it’s a bit overbearing compared to the simplicity exihibited in the visual style of this film.