Demy. Demy’s 10-year run from 1961-1970 was something to behold. I did a demy study in 2014 and I’m both pissed it took me so long to get to him and thrilled to have finally “discovered” his oeuvre and to watch and rewatch and enjoy the rest of my days. I think he was overlooked by me, and is overlooked by many even today, for a few reasons. 1. He works in a genre that just isn’t as in-step today (musicals) 2. He came out in a time when cinema was at its absolute peak (debut in 1961) and even I, as a big admirer, have to list several names during that era before his. 3. He stands behind the two giants of the French New Wave: Godard and Truffaut and 4. For some reason his films were very hard to find for a long time. A very nice box set Blu-ray collection of his films came out in 2014 so that should at least remedy #4. Demy’s small archiveable output is buoyed by the strength of Umbrellas of Cherbourg, the consistency in his work (expressionistic and live), and the fact that he’s a style plus director.
Best film: The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. It’s really an extension of his stunning debut Lola in 1961. It’s firmly both a French New Wave masterpiece and an elegant and beautiful Hollywood-like musical. It’s an odd and brilliant pairing of escapism and realism as much of the content is very 1960’s French new wave raw and un-hollywood while the visuals are pure Minnelli, Cukor and Donen Technicolor visual elegance and panache.
total archiveable films: 5
top 100 films: 0
top 500 films: 2 (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Lola)
top 100 films of the decade: 3 (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Lola, The Young Girls of Rochefort)
most overrated: The Young Girls of Rochefort is #369 on TSPDT and that’s maybe is 200 slots too highly rated for me. It’s tough to be too upset though with this gorgeous film. I love seeing Deneuve and Gene Kelly (Hollywood musical influence) singing and dancing in stunning Technicolor.
most underrated: Lola but there’s nothing egregious here. The TSPDT consensus has it at #507 and I’m at 417—close. This fantastic film is not to be confused with Fassbinder’s equally brilliant 1981 film. I didn’t come across Lola until 2014 and watching it was like a wonderful punch in the face. It’s poetic and certainly shows a master at work behind the camera for a debut film. It’s not filmed in gorgeous color (which Demy is known for) but it certainly proved that there were at least three genius auteurs directing films in the French New Wave (not sure if you count Varda as part of the New Wave or not as she came before).
gem I want to spotlight: Donkey Skin. Surrealism fantasy—it’s an odd film—but the décor and mise-en-scene match Demy’s talents. There are some jaw-dropping visuals even if the film is far more flawed than his big 3 (Umbrellas, Lola, Rochefort).
stylistic innovations/traits: He blended ultra-modern and contemporary new wave content with an old-school Hollywood style. Behind the camera he combined elegant tracking shots and long takes (one of his heroes was Ophuls and although he’s no Ophuls you can tell he really tried which I admire) with the gorgeous lighting and work in color like Minnelli or Stanley Donen.
- The Umbrellas of Cherbourg
- The Young Girls of Rochefort
- Bay of Angels
- Donkey Skin
By year and grades
|1963- Bay Of Angels||R|
|1964- The Umbrellas of Cherbourg||MP|
|1967- The Young Girls of Rochefort||HR|
|1970- Donkey Skin||R|
*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film
MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film
HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film
R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives