Wednesday, January 20, 2016

#713: Essential Jacques Demy

(Jacques Demy, 1961-1982)

Halfway through watching the films from The Essential Jacques Demy this fall, and despite the fact that all six main films in the box are available on Hulu, I bought the set. I did this partially because I got a great deal (40 bucks through a B&N eBay malfunction) but mostly because I wanted to see the rest of the movies in HD, particularly The Young Girls of Roquefort, and I was interested in the Varda extras. As much as I like Demy, I like Varda significantly more, so getting the chance to see a few documentaries by the filmmaker was an added bonus to owning Umbrellas on blu.

After watching the whole set, I'm very glad I made the purchase. I'm looking forward to making my way through the extras on each disc, but most importantly I know I'll revisit at least three of these movies: Lola is an early New Wave masterpiece that balances many of the great forward-thinking concepts at the heart of the movement with an entirely different kind of tone and life philosophy. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (which I've seen a handful of times years ago - including once on the big screen!) is one of the great French films of the 1960s and perhaps one of the best musicals of all time. And finally, The Young Girls of Roquefort is a visual and musical delight, a great movie to watch with the subtitles off.

All Criterion boxsets belong to one of three categories: a complete filmography of a director, a trilogy or series of films tied together with one story, style, or theme, or a random assortment of films by one filmmaker. This Demy set belongs to the latter group, but unlike 3 Films by Malle or 4 By Varda, this is the only set to be titled The Essential. Considering the fact that the set contains a little less than half of the director's feature output, it's worth noting this title and wondering about the process by which they decided on these specific films. Obviously, the only glaring omission here is Model Shop, which is a somewhat sequel to Lola. Although the film is likely tied up in rights (it's out of print on DVD at the moment) it's also difficult to see that film's English-language, Los Angeles-set, Hollywood hippie vibe meshing well with the rest of this box, sequel or no. The rest of Demy's catalog lacks a film that would merit any serious objection to the labeling of this box as "essential" - if anything, there are a number of film nerds out there who would argue there are too many movies in this set.

It's very possible that Model Shop or perhaps one of Demy's 70s films could make their way to the Collection someday, but for now this set does seem like truth in advertising and it's nice to have gotten all of the films in one fell swoop instead of parceled out like Chaplin or Lloyd (though there are other obvious reasons - legal or not - for them to be more judicious with those releases). Because Demy's films were light and even in tragedy or melodrama lacked the thematic heft of his fellow Frenchmen (or even his French wife), they were often forgotten. This set feels like it rights that wrong with admirable style and efficiency.

Links to individual reviews:

714. Lola
715. Bay of Angels
716. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg
717. The Young Girls of Rochefort
718. Donkey Skin
719. Une chambre en ville

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