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Young Girls of Rochefort

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					“The Young Girls of Rochefort” (Les Demoiselles de Rochefort)(1967). Twin sisters
Delphine and Solange Garnier (played by actual sisters Catherine Deneuve and Françoise
Dorléac, who looked very much alike) live in the small port of Rochefort, France, while
yearning for the romance and excitement of Paris. But when a charming pair of song-and-
dance men (George Chakiris and Grover Dale) comes to town, the singing, dancing
sisters get more than they ever expected. An effervescent, candy-colored film by
acclaimed French director Jacques Demy (THE UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG) that
co-stars the screen legend song and dance man Gene Kelly (SINGING IN THE RAIN),
and veteran French star Danielle Darrieux. These two films were rather recently
expensively restored by Demy’s widow, the French film director Agnes Varda (CLEO
FROM FIVE TO SEVEN -- 1961).

It appears that, coming off his huge, wonderful worldwide hit in “Umbrellas,” that starred
Deneuve and boasted a beautiful, semi- classical score by Michel Legrand, Demy, and all
involved parties, wanted to pay tribute to the Hollywood musical, while making a
“hipper” film than “Umbrellas.” It was an unfortunate decision, for while “Young Girls”
retains its charm, it has seriously dated. Legrand’s jazzy score verges on the annoying, as
does the jazzy/mod choreography. The costumes are atrocious, and the poor Dorleac
sisters are forced to spend the whole movie in the silliest wigs, and a series of the silliest
hats: only Darrieux, as their mother, gets decent- looking costumes.

As mentioned above, Deneuve and Dorleac were actual sisters from a theatrical family,
daughters of the actor Maurice Dorleac. Catherine took her mother’s name, Deneuve, so
as not to be confused with her sister, who tasted stardom first. Dorleac was considered
less beautiful than Deneuve, but considerably livelier and more charming, both on- and
off-camera; it was widely thought that she livened her sister up. Dorleac was carefree,
outgoing, alluring and talented; she began her career at the age of ten, and starred in,
among other films, the James Bond spoof “THAT MAN FROM RIO,” (1964) (a hard-to-
find film I love) where she played a fun and flaky heroine opposite Jean-Paul Belmondo.
She was chic, slim, gamine, pale-skinned, a real brunette beauty, and funny. And she
died tragically, at the age of 25, on the French Riviera, on June 26, 1967, as she was on
the verge of international stardom, when her sports car flipped and burned. Many critics
think that her early death deprived her sister Catherine, who did achieve international
stardom, of course, of leavening she badly needed.

“Young Girls” can be annoying, but some of us will welcome any chance to see Gene
Kelly dance; and it’s the only movie the Dorleac sisters made together, singing and
dancing quite competently, for our delectation.

				
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posted:10/30/2010
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