XL Popcorn – Jezebel / The Young Girls of Rochefort

One month in and it is spreading up into my neck from my right arm. Dictated reviews will be continuing until I know more about what I am dealing with.

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”Title: Jezebel
Director: William Wyler
Year: 1938
Country: USA

After two and a bit years I have finally gotten around to watching Jezebel. I do not know why it has taken me so long, but my best guess is that I wanted to make sure that I didn’t use up all of the female lead films of the 1930s and 40s.

Anyway, here we are at last watching Bette Davis in the role many have described as her best. It is definitely an amazing turn by her and yet I still think that she was at her best in All About Eve. Then again maybe that’s because All About Eve is one of my favourite films the 1950s and she gets a far better supporting cast than in Jezebel.

I think of this film has a best picture nominee from 1938 and compare it to some of the best picture nominees from recent years. With the exception of Brooklyn from this year there has been a real absence in the female lead pictures getting Oscar recognition. Watching Bette Davis absolutely kill it as Julie just makes me angry to think that we’re not making films like this anymore.

Obviously I did not mean films that tread so lightly on the topics of slavery, but films where there are strong women as title characters that are allowed to steal the show. Sure we still have the likes of Carol, Frances Ha, Still Alice and… now I’m finding it difficult. Maybe Gravity should be included as well. Still, what has happened?

Maybe Jezebel is not the best film to bring this up. I guess because this film shows the name with the website Jezebel it subliminally came to the forefront of my mind. What can I say though, I love a good women’s film from this era of cinema. It makes me want to dig out my copy of Mildred Pierce and make it a double bill.

If you are fond of antebellum or women’s films then Jezebel is definitely a film to add to your wishlist. Hell, if you want to see a fantastic acting performance then this is a must see.

rochefortTitle: The Young Girls of Rochefort (Les Demoiselles de Rochefort)
Director: Jacques Demy
Year: 1967
Country: France

To be honest, doing the write up for Jezebel kinda bummed me out. So instead of watching my original choice I went for something a bit more upbeat.

Now I do not think that I have ever seen a musical in a foreign language (that time I went to the opera doesn’t count). It’s one of those film genres that I would more readily associate with Hollywood and, therefore, the English language. Turns out that other than Bollywood films there are two French musicals on the list. Both of them are by Jacques Demy, which means that The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is the other one.

I went into this with a fairly closed mind. I expected that after half an hour of this film I would start to zone out. Nothing against the idea of a French musical it is just that I’ve seen a lot of bad musicals (because when you tell people about musicals you like they take it to mean you will like any musical). I’m happy to say that The Young Girls of Rochefort defied my expectation. I adored it.

The thing that really stood out for me was the visuals. It was as if Jacques Demy took a French town, painted it with pastels and ran it through a jukebox. In terms of looks it felt like 1960s France should feel on a sunny day. I’m probably not making much sense, but there you are.

I know from reading around that this is not the strongest musical from this director. That in terms of songs it is a weaker than The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. Therefore I now have very inflated expectations for the other film.

The best song is probably the twin song, which is the first song you hear and is a recurring motif throughout the first half. Not only is it catchy with clever lyrics (thanks a lot to the translators of this who managed to keep the rhyming intact whilst preserving as much meaning as possible) but it also soars thanks to the amazing chemistry of real life sisters Catherine Deneuve and Françoise Dorléac.

This film is such a love letter to the old Hollywood musicals that any moment you do feel that it would sail away on its own ocean of cliché. Catherine Deneuve and Françoise Dorléac make sure that this does not happen. Their characters are confident and so self aware that they prevent this film from feeling flighty. It is also a joy to see Gene Kelly pop in and kill his dance numbers.

One thing that we tend to love about musicals is they mostly have happy endings. I know this despite the fact that Dancer and the Dark and Moulin Rouge! feature in my favourite films list. However I still managed to feel myself rooting for the romantic pairings in this film. It was a film of just pure joy that it could not end any other way, could it?

I know I’m gonna have trouble getting some of the songs out of my head in the next day or so.

Progress: 534/1007

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