the films of Jacques Demy

Jacques Demy, Les Demoiselles de Rochefort (The Young Girls of Rochefort), 1967, 35 mm, color, sound, 124 minutes. Production still. From left: Catherine Deneuve, Jacques Demy, and Françoise Dorléac. Photo: Hélène Jeanbrau.

“I’M TRYING TO CREATE A WORLD IN MY FILMS,” Jacques Demy once said. This demiurge (Demy-urge?) transformed humdrum provincial port towns into florid, fantastic realms. Several of his works were inspired by myths or fairy tales; even those that weren’t seem out of time. Informed as much by Balzac and Cocteau as by MGM musicals, Demy’s hybrid microcosms established him as one of cinema’s preeminent dreamers and romantics. Yet a perverse streak runs through his oneiric sensibility: The most ebullient of Demy’s twelve feature films, Les Demoiselles de Rochefort (The Young Girls of Rochefort, 1967), contains a subplot involving an old chorine hacked to pieces by a spurned lover. Two of his movies, Peau d’âne (Donkey Skin, 1970) and Trois places pour le 26 (Three Seats for the 26th, 1988), his last film, blithely address father-daughter incest.

A fellow traveler in the Nouvelle Vague

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