My Gleanings

Monday, February 05, 2007

Jacques Demy the unknown young turk

Jean-Luc Godard ends chapter 3 (b) of his Histoire(s) du Cinema which is titled “A New Wave”,

Jacques Demy
you knew them
yes, these were my friends”

Demy – Godard -- Cahiers du Cinema.

Jacques Demy and Cahiers du Cinema

I have often read some variation of this sentence “Jacques Demy did not write for Cahiers du Cinema” and have gone on to realize that the writer of that sentence had missed the point. You see, they seemed to be saying that “Jacques Demy did not write for Cahiers du Cinema” when the truth is that “Jacques Demy did not write for Cahiers du Cinema”. Put differently, Jacques Demy did not write for anyone. He was not a journalist. It must be said, however, Jacques Demy did contribute to Cahiers du Cinema. He certainly fraternized with the group remembered as “les turcs jeunes” He could be referred to as the “jeune’ turk who did not write. A squib published in July 1958’s edition of Cahiers in “Le Petit journal du cinema” entitled “Cahiers au pied du mur” (Cahiers getting a foothold) lists seven Cahiers contributors and talks of their progress in getting their film careers in motion. Those seven were Pierre Kast, Jacques Donoil-Valcroze, Claude Chabrol. Eric Rohmer, Jacques Rivette, Jean-Luc Godard and Jacques Demy. It read, “Jacues Demy whose Le Bel Indifferent was far from having passes unnoticed is writing and preparing a film on la foi.”

Les conseil des dix – the counsel of ten

Jacques Demy twice was empaneled on Cahiers’ conseil des dix in May 1958 and June 1959.

May 1958 les conseil des dix
Demy served that month with, among others, Jacques Rivette, Eric Rohmer and Charles Bitsch. How does Demy’s choices stack up against the other three “Turcs Jeunes”
All four gave 4 stars to The Seventh Seal
Rivette, Rohmer, and Bitsch each gave 3 stars to George Cukor’s “Les Girls”. Ironically, Demy who is best remembered for his musicals one of which “The Young Girls of Rochefort” would star “Les Girls” star Gene Kelly gave the film only 2 stars.
Demy along with Rivette and Bitsch gave “Montparnasse 19” 3 stars. Rohmer gave it only 1 star.
Demy gave “The Young Lions” 1 star. Rivette and Bitsch both bulleted the film while Rohmer abstained.
Demy along with Rivette and Bitsch gave “Les Bijoutiers de clair de lune” 1 star while Rohmer bulleted the film
Demy bulleted a film called “Les Désert de Pigalle” which Bitsch awarded 1 star. Rivette and Rohmer both abstained.

By the next time – June 1959 - Demy participated in the conseil, he had made a short appearance in “Les Quatre cents coups” sharing the screen with fellow panelist Charles Bitsch. This time there were five critics who could be referred to as “turcs jeunes” – Rivette, Rohmer, Godard, Bitsch and Luc Moullet. The summing up:

Demy as Rivette and Moullet gave “The Wild Strawberries” 3 stars. Godard, Rohmer and Bitsch gave the film 4 stars.
Jacques Baratier’s “Goha” was given 3 stars by Demy. Rivette and Godard also gave the film 3 stars. Rohmer and Bitsch gave the film 2 stars. Luc Moullet bulleted the film.
“Les Tripes au soleil” was given 2 stars by everyone except for Moullet who gave it only 1 star.
The panel also considered two films from Edouard Molinaro. “Un Temoin de la ville” was given 1 star by Demy and Rohmer. Godard, Rivette and Moullet bulleted the film while Bitsch abstained. “Des Femmes disparaissant” was bulleted by Demy and also Godard, Rivette and Moullet. Bitsch and Rohmer both abstained.

Jacques Demy -- Ten Best Films 1958-1963

Jacques Demy contributed ten best film lists to Cahiers between 1958 and 1963. He chose to laureate
Francois Truffaut (The 400 Blows, Shoot the Piano Player, Jules and Jim)
Jean-Luc Godard (Breathless, A Woman is a Woman, Contempt, Les Carbiniers, Vivre sa Vie)
Claude Chabrol (Les Bonnes Femmes)
Jacques Rivette (Paris Belongs to Us)
Eric Rohmer (Le Signe du Lion)
Claude de Givray (Une Grosse Tete)

Jean-luc Godard and Jacques Demy

When Jacques Demy’s short film Le Bel indifférent was booed at the Tours Short Film Festival in 1958, Jean-Luc Godard stepped up to defend that film. He published an article in Arts for 10 december 1958 and another in the January 1959 issue of Cahiers du Cinema.
from Godard on Godard: critical writings; edited by Jean Narboni; [edited and translated from the French by] Tom Milne; with an introduction by Richard Roud

Arts 10Dec1959 “Ignored by the jury”

“A setting of fantastic beauty, carpeted by the blood of a poet or tiled with the azure that enfevered Rimbaud. A setting created by Bernard Evein has enabled Demy to back three winners with absolute rigour, the beauty of inevitability, palpable tragedy. It is the most sensational treble in the whole history of French cinema. His Le Bel indifférent is Piero della Francesca plus Picasso (cf. Jeanne Allard‘s decoratively tortured face) plus Bérénice. What a collection! people will say. What a confection! say I. Jacques Demy really has entered cinema as Raymond Queneau’s Pierrot has entered literature. And talking about Jacquot my friend will now let me move on to Chant du Styrene.”

Cahiers du Cinema Feb59 Each One his Tours

“I only like films which resemble their creators. With Jacques Demy,
it takes half an hour to navigate the Place de L’Etiole in a car. So it takes half an hour to watch a cobbler make a shoe and half an hour to share a woman’s realization that her lover really is indifferent.”

Once Godard had made it with Breathless, He made it a project to leverage his success to obtain a cahnce at a first feature for Demy (and Agnes Varda and Jacques Rozier). Godard hounded Georges de Beauregard into producing Lola and he was instrumental in seeing that Raoul Coutard came on as director of photography.

Also Godard referenced Demy's first feature Lola in both A Woman is a Woman and A Married Woman.

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