The Young Girls of Rochefort

The Young Girls of Rochefort

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The Young Girls of Rochefort takes place over the course of one weekend in the seaside town of Rochefort, where a fair is coming to the town square. The story centers on twin sisters Delphine (Deneuve) and Solange (Dorléac) — Delphine teaches ballet classes and Solange gives music lessons for a living, but each longs to find her ideal love and a life outside of Rochefort. When the fair comes to town, Delphine and Solange meet two smooth-talking but kind-hearted carnies, Étienne (George Chakiris) and Bill (Grover Dale).

The twins’ mother Yvonne (Danielle Darrieux) owns a café in the center of town, and pines for a fiancé she left impulsively ten years before due to his embarrassing last name of “Dame.” Yvonne’s café becomes a central hub for Étienne and Bill as well as most of the other characters in the film. In the café, Yvonne meets a sailor about to be demobbed from the navy, Maxence (Jacques Perrin). Maxence is a poet and painter, and is searching for his true feminine ideal. Little does Yvonne know, her former fiancé, Simon Dame (Michel Piccoli), has recently opened a music store in Rochefort. He knows his fiancée had twins from a previous relationship, but he never met them. Solange, an aspiring songwriter, enlists the help of Simon Dame (she is unaware of his relationship with her mother), who promises to introduce her to his successful American colleague Andy Miller (Gene Kelly). As Solange is on her way to pick up her younger brother BouBou from school, she happens to bump into a charming foreigner, who turns out to be Andy. However, the two do not exchange names.

Meanwhile, Delphine is unhappy in her relationship with the egotistical gallery owner Guillaume (Jacques Riberolles), so she ends the relationship. In the gallery, as she is about to leave, Delphine notices a painting that looks remarkably like her. The image was in fact painted by Maxence. Back in the square, the two female dancers in Étienne and Bill’s show run off with sailors, so they ask Delphine and Solange to perform, offering them a free ride to Paris in return. On the day of the fair, the paths of all of the characters cross again at the town square and in Yvonne’s café.

REVIEW:

A few days ago, it was Gene Kelly’s birthday. I was a little busy and didn’t realize what day it was, but made a vow to get one of his films in this week, which is how we have arrived at The Young Girls of Rochefort. Now, this is a lesser known foreign film, but I’m hoping it is still entertaining, nonetheless.

What is this about?

Living in the small town of Rochefort, France, twin sisters Delphine and Solange Garnier (Catherine Deneuve and Françoise Dorléac) yearn for the romance of Paris. But when a charming pair of song-and-dance men (George Chakiris and Grover Dale) comes to town, the sisters get more than they ever dreamed.

What did I like?

Charming. Women love to be charmed off their feet, or at least they did back in the day. These days if you look at a female wrong they are likely to have you arrested for sexual harassment or worse. The charm in the film comes from two dashing leads, Grover Dale and George Chakiris (Bernardo from West Side Story). These two carnies lay down their “game” not only on the titular twins, but also their mother and some other suspect females around Rochefort, but their eyes are firmly fixed on one prize. Two, technically.

Dance. I don’t think Gene Kelly was a choreographer on this picture but, given the fact that he’s in the film, one has to know that there is sure to be some impressive dancing. As it turns out the film is more of less bookended with dance scenes that are nothing short of impressive. There isn’t a huge ballet scene in this one, but that is more than ok. Too much of a good thing. What we are privy to is great dancing by some younger dancers who have no doubt grown up watching Kelly and now they get to do a dance scene with the master dancer and entertainer.

Sisters. Sometimes in casting, we’ll get characters that are meant to be related and look nothing alike. Other times, the casting is spot on. Catherine Deneuve and Françoise Dorléac were perfectly cast as sisters. Upon a quick research glance, it turns out they really are sisters. You can’t get much better casting than that, now can you? On top of the familial connection, these women carve out characters that are separate from each other and when on their own, provide an interesting story in their own right.

What didn’t I like?

Language. When I chose to watch this, I thought it was going to be along the lines of An American in Paris, where there are some people speaking French in passing, but the default language was English. That isn’t what I got, though, as this turned out to be a French film. As with most films in a different language, had I just known that I’d have been reading subtitles the whole time, it wouldn’t have felt like an unexpected chore. I hear that there is an English version of this lost somewhere, though. Clips are on YouTube. Maybe one day someone will restore it.

Give up your students. Late in the film, the twins are set to leave Rochefort, even though they have their own school/studio. When one of their students shows up, they just dismiss they saying classes are cancelled indefinitely. How is it that you can just give up you school like that? Do the students not matter? At least find someone to take over!

False advertising. Most anything you find for this film will feature Gene Kelly, which is great, except for the fact that this isn’t his movie. He’s in maybe 15 minutes of it. Granted, you can’t take your eyes off of him during those 15 minutes, because it is Gene Kelly and you know he’s going to blow you away with a dance move or a song featuring his warm vocals. I hate it when films use the star power of bit parts to bring in audiences. There are some old films getting re-released now that feature big names in early roles, so they may have a line or two and the studios will make sure they are front and center on the packaging. It is quite misleading to audiences!

Final verdict on The Girls of Rochefort? Aside from some misunderstandings about who was the star and what language this was in, I didn’t find this to be a half bad flick. The language barrier kept me from getting into the songs, but some of the tunes seemed to be catchy. I do have to bring up some weird aging involving Kelly and Chakiris. They seem to be younger than they are in bigger films years before this was released, especially Chakiris. That’s just an observation, though, and not something to bring the whole film down. So, do I recommend this? That is hard to say. I think it all depends on how you feel about reading subtitles the whole time, because that is the only way you’ll really know what is going on. If that doesn’t bother you, then check it out!

3 1/3 out of 5 stars

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