Criterion: The Essential Jacques Demy
THE ESSENTIAL JACQUES DEMY, 2014
This is the first completed box set for this blog, although there should be another one following pretty closely behind. This was a good one to start with. Going in, I had limited exposure to Demy, and wasn’t a huge fan of what I saw. Even though this set only includes the ‘Essential’ titles, it’s the best representation of his work, and with the shorts included, I felt that I had seen the development and evolution of style.
Even though I wouldn’t call any of his films masterpieces, I closed this set having a lot more respect for his craft. He went to places that other filmmakers wouldn’t go, and did some things that were truly original. I really like that his film universe had some connectivity, with reoccurring characters, motifs, and references to other films in the mise-en-scene. This would not be as easy to pick up if you watched the films individually over a longer span of time.
There are a couple of titles omitted that I wanted to see, especially Model Shop. My expectations are not high, but it seems to fit into the Demy universe since it is a sequel to Lola. Since the Demy family was so involved in this project, I am hopeful that Criterion will work on some of these other titles as standalone releases. On that note, I’m praying for an upgrade of Varda’s 4-films. The fact that this set was so comprehensive and she was heavily involved, I’d say it is a strong possibility.
Aside from Lola, the restorations were all impressive. Many of the discs had a short restoration supplement, and it was neat to see them remove blemishes as they found them. Lola’s restoration was poor, but I know that they had problems getting a workable master print. Since it was his debut feature film and it set the stage for so much of his later work, it had to be included regardless of the quality.
As for my impression of Demy, as mentioned, it improved. Musicals are my blind spot, but I found myself enjoying The Umbrellas of Cherbourg far more on this new visit, and I appreciated The Young Girls of Rochefort. As I progressed further into the set, I found myself appreciating Lola and Bay of Angels a little more, and will enjoy revisiting them at a later date. Donkey Skin was disappointing. While Une chambre en ville didn’t measure up to it’s stylistic sister, it was surprisingly effective, and it was refreshing to see Demy push beyond the boundaries he set for himself.
There were no commentaries on any discs. While that was disappointing, the vast number of supplements almost made up for it. I appreciated the two Varda documentaries a great deal. In fact, her The World of Jacques Demy is my favorite film of the entire set. I missed a lot of the critical examinations on the earlier discs, but was pleased to view James Quandt’s A-Z evaluation. His essay and Varda’s documentary were on the final disc, and that punctuated the set extremely well.
Here are all of the films:
Box Set Rating: 8.5