Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. France, 1991. Canal+, Centre National De La Cinematographie, Ciné Tamaris, La Sept Cinema, Sofiarp. Screenplay by Agnes Varda, based on the memoirs of Jacques Demy. Cinematography by Patrick Blossier, Agnes Godard, Georges Strouve. Music by Joanna Bruzdowicz. Production Design by Robert Nardone. Costume Design by Françoise Disle. Film Editing by Marie-Josee Audiard. Toronto International Film Festival 1991.
Jacques Demy originally intended to make a film based on his own memories of childhood but, with his illness becoming more serious, his wife Agnes Varda stepped in and filmed the project instead, including him in a number of scenes just months before his death at 59 from an AIDS-related illness. The result is Varda’s familiar, carefree abandonment of linear style that never takes itself too seriously, combined with her obvious affection for her husband who she knows she is soon to lose. An excellent cast recreates Demy’s childhood on the French Atlantic coast, the son of a car mechanic who tries to ensure the boy’s future by enrolling him in technical school despite the fact that young Jacquot wants to be an artist. Eventually the boy’s hobby, that of making simple, quick animations from his own drawings, catches the right eye and he goes to Paris to become the artist we now know as the genius mind behind classics like The Umbrellas of Cherbourg and The Young Girls of Rochefort. Varda doesn’t play it cool with Demy’s well known filmography, as passionate about his work as she is about the man himself, frequently cutting to footage from his oeuvre that relates directly to the biographical scenes to show where the ideas originated. This film is a delight for both Demy fans and those who love film biographies without knowing Demy specifically, plus it’s shot beautifully and is a wonderful example of Varda making something close to conventional without abandoning the uncompromising style for which she is best known.