Blu-ray, DVD Release: The Essential Jacques Demy

Blu-ray & DVD Release Date: July 22, 2014
Price: Blu-ray/DVD Combo $124.95
Studio: Criterion

French director Jacques Demy launched his glorious feature filmmaking career in the Sixties, a decade of astonishing invention in his national cinema. He stood out from the crowd of his fellow New Wavers, however, by filtering his self-conscious formalism through deeply emotional storytelling. Fate and coincidence, doomed love, and storybook romance surface throughout his films, many of which are further united by the intersecting lives of characters who either appear or are referenced across titles.

Six of Demy’s films are collected in The Essential Jacques Demy. Ranging from musical to melodrama to fantasia, all are triumphs of visual and sound design, camera work, and music, and they are galvanized by the great stars of French cinema at their centers, including Anouk Aimée (8 1/2), Catherine Deneuve (Belle de Jour), and Jeanne Moreau (Jules and Jim).

The six works here, made from the Sixties to the Eighties, include the following:

Lola movie scene

Lola (1961)


LOLA (1961)
Jacques Demy’s crystalline debut gave birth to the fictional universe in which so many of his characters would live, play, and love. It’s a tale of crisscrossing lives in Nantes (Demy’s hometown) that floats on waves of longing and desire. Heading the film’s ensemble is the enchanting Anouk Aimeé as the title character, a cabaret chanteuse; she’s awaiting the return of a long-lost lover and unwilling to entertain the adoration of another love-struck soul, the wanderer Roland (Le trou’s Marc Michel).

This precisely wrought, emotionally penetrating romantic drama from Demy, set largely in the casinos of Nice, is a visually lovely but darkly pragmatic investigation into love and obsession. A bottle-blonde Jeanne Moreau is at her blithe best as a gorgeous gambling addict, and Claude Mann (Army of Shadows) is the bank clerk drawn into her risky world.

An angelically beautiful Catherine Deneuve was launched into stardom by this glorious musical heart tugger. She plays an umbrella-shop owner’s delicate daughter, glowing with first love for a handsome garage mechanic (Nino Castelnuovo). When the boy is shipped off to fight in Algeria, the two lovers must grow up quickly. It’s all exquisitely designed in a kaleidoscope of colors, and told entirely through the lilting songs of the great composer Michel Legrand.

Jacques Demy followed up Umbrellas with another musical about missed connections and second chances, this one a more effervescent confection. Twins Delphine and Solange, a dance instructor and a music teacher (played by real-life sisters Catherine Deneuve and Françoise Dorléac), dream of big-city life. And when a fair comes through their quiet port town, so does the possibility of escape. Featuring a jazzy Michel Legrand score and a divine supporting cast that includes George Chakiris (West Side Story), Danielle Darrieux (The Earrings of Madame de…), Michel Piccoli (Belle de Jour), and Gene Kelly (Singin’ in the Rain).

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg movie scene

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964)


In this lovingly crafted, wildly quirky adaptation of a classic French fairy tale, Deneuve is a princess who must go into hiding as a scullery maid in order to fend off an unwanted marriage proposal—from her own father, the king (Orpheus’s Jean Marais)! A topsy-turvy riches-to-rags fable featuring songs by Michel Legrand, Donkey Skin creates a tactile fantasy world that’s perched on the border between the earnest and the satiric.

In this musical melodrama set against the backdrop of a workers’ strike in Nantes, Dominique Sanda (1900) plays a young woman who wishes to leave her brutish fiancé ( Michel Piccoli) for an earthy steelworker (The Valet’s Richard Berry), though he is engaged to another

Criterion’s Blu-ray/DVD Combo edition of The Essential Jacques Demy contains the following:

• New 2K digital restorations of all six films, with uncompressed monaural soundtracks on the Blu-rays of Lola and Bay of Angels and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and 2.0 surround soundtracks on the Blu-rays of The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, The Young Girls of Rochefort, Donkey Skin, and Une chambre en ville
• Two documentaries by filmmaker Agnès Varda: The World of Jacques Demy (1995) and The Young Girls Turn 25 (1993)
• Four short films by director Jacques Demy: Les horizons morts (1951), Le sabotier du Val de Loire (1956), Ars (1959), and La luxure (1962)
• Jacques Demy A to Z, a new visual essay by film critic James Quandt
• Two archival interviews from French television with Demy and composer Michel Legrand, one on The Umbrellas of Cherbourg and the other on The Young Girls of Rochefort
• French television interview from 1962 with actor Jeanne Moreau on the set of Bay of Angels
• Once Upon a Time . . . “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg,” a 2008 documentary
• French television program about the making of Donkey Skin
•  “Donkey Skin” Illustrated, a video program on the many versions of Charles Perrault’s fairy tale
•  “Donkey Skin” and the Thinkers, a video program on the themes of the film, featuring critic Camille Tabouley
• New video conversation with Demy biographer Jean-Pierre Berthomé and costume designer Jacqueline Moreau
• New interviews with author Marie Colmant and film scholar Rodney Hill
• Q&A with Demy from the 1987 Midnight Sun Film Festival, as well as an audio Q&A with him from the American Film Institute in 1971
• Archival audio recordings of interviews with Demy, Legrand, and actor Catherine Deneuve at the National Film Theatre in London
• Interview with actor Anouk Aimée conducted by Varda in 2012
• Interview from 2012 with Varda on the origin of Lola’s song
• Video programs on the restorations of Lola, Bay of Angels, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, and Une chambre en ville
• Trailers
• New English subtitle translations
• Six Blu-rays and seven DVDs, with all content available in both formats
• A booklet featuring essays by critics Ginette Vincendeau, Terrence Rafferty, Jim Ridley, Jonathan Rosenbaum, Anne Duggan, and Geoff Andrew, and a postscript by Berthomé


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About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.