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The Essential Jacques Demy (Blu-ray + DVD)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Catherine Deneuve, Anouk Aimee, Jeanne Moreau
  • Directors: Jacques Demy
  • Format: Color, NTSC, Surround Sound, Widescreen
  • Language: French
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region A/1 (Read more about DVD/Blu-ray formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 13
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Criterion Collection (Direct)
  • DVD Release Date: July 22, 2014
  • Run Time: 573 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #58,937 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Special Features

French director Jacques Demy didn’t just make movies—he created an entire cinematic world. 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. Demy’s films—which range from musical to melodrama to fantasia—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, Catherine Deneuve, and Jeanne Moreau. The works collected here, made from the sixties to the eighties, touch the heart and mind in equal measure.


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 among his most profoundly felt films, 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 (8½) 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). Humane, wistful, and witty, Lola is a testament to the resilience of the heartbroken.


This precisely wrought, emotionally penetrating romantic drama from Jacques 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 (Jules and Jim) 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. Featuring a glittering score by Michel Legrand, Bay of Angels is among Demy’s most somber works.


An angelically beautiful Catherine Deneuve (Belle de jour) was launched into stardom by this glorious musical heart tugger from Jacques Demy. She plays an umbrella-shop owner’s delicate daughter, glowing with first love for a handsome garage mechanic, played by Nino Castelnuovo (The English Patient). When the boy is shipped off to fight in Algeria, the two lovers must grow up quickly. Exquisitely designed in a kaleidoscope of colors, and told entirely through the lilting songs of the great composer Michel Legrand, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is one of the most revered and unorthodox movie musicals of all time.


Jacques Demy followed up The Umbrellas of Cherbourg 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; when a fair comes through their quiet port town, so does the possibility of escape. With its jazzy Michel Legrand score, pastel paradise of costumes, and divine supporting cast (George Chakiris, Grover Dale, Danielle Darrieux, Michel Piccoli, and Gene Kelly), The Young Girls of Rochefort is a tribute to Hollywood optimism from sixties French cinema’s preeminent dreamer.


In this lovingly crafted, wildly quirky adaptation of a classic French fairy tale, Jacques Demy casts Catherine Deneuve as 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, and features Delphine Seyrig (Last Year at Marienbad) in a delicious supporting role as a fashionable fairy godmother.


In this musical melodrama set against the backdrop of a workers’ strike in Nantes, Dominique Sanda (The Conformist) plays a young woman who wishes to leave her brutish fiancé (Contempt's Michel Piccoli) for an earthy steelworker (The Valet’s Richard Berry), though he is engaged to another. Unbeknownst to the girl, the object of her affection boards with her no-nonsense baroness mother (The Earrings of Madame de . . .’s Danielle Darrieux). A late-career triumph from Jacques Demy, Une chambre en ville received nine César Award nominations and features a rich, operatic score by Michel Colombier (Purple Rain).

Editorial Reviews

''French director JACQUES DEMY didn?t just make movies?he created an entire cinematic world. Demy launched his glorious feature filmmaking career in the sixties, a decde of astonishing invention in his national cinema. He stood out from the crowd of his fe
Genre: Foreign Video - French
Rating: UN
Release Date: 0000-00-00
Media Type: Blu-Ray

Customer Reviews

Great picture quality on the restored movies presented on blu-ray.
J. S. Barrett
It's a quibble, but I like seeing how films were marketed in their original releases.
Gryphon X
A series of Demy's SHORT FILMS lends the set a good sense of range and perspective.
Captain Bob

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Gryphon X on August 6, 2014
I'll start with my criticisms, which, you'll note, haven't prevented me from rating this set an enthusiastic five stars.

'Lola' doesn't look so hot. I realize the negative is lost, but it looks dull and muddy and digitally scrubbed. I didn't see one speck of grain. This may be the fault of the restoration that was done, and not the transfer. Fortunately, the other films look much better.

I can't wait for the dual format thing to end. All it does is make the set bulkier than it needs to be. People only have so much shelf space. That said, this is a handsome set. I only wish it were thinner.

Not Criterion's fault, but, alas, the English version of 'The Young Girls of Rochefort' seems to be lost -- although we get glimpses of it in Agnes Varda's film on the 25th anniversary of the movie (which is, itself, an unusually moving, personal and intelligent tribute that goes far beyond your average behind the scenes doc).

The trailers provided are for the restorations, not the original trailers. It's a quibble, but I like seeing how films were marketed in their original releases.

Okay, now for the good news, which far outweighs my complaints:

There's an embarrassment of cinematic riches here (not just Demy's films, but Varda's, in which Demy and his work become her subject), so I know I'm looking a gift horse in the mouth, but I feel like I want more, and the extras only whet my appetite for it. The set feels a bit incomplete without 'Model Shop,' and I really miss 'The Pied Piper.'

As I said, most of the transfers are gorgeous, the extras (I'm still getting through them) are substantial and plentiful, and this is overall a top-notch presentation of some wonderful films -- three of which were new to me.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Sebastien Dutton on July 29, 2014
This collection is every bit as good as you'd expect. The restorations of each film are fantastic. I owned the films all individually on DVD before this came out and I doubt I'll every pull them out again. The extra features are entertaining and a great addition to the set. I can't say enough good things about this set. Buy it now. You won't be disappointed.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Captain Bob on October 11, 2014
Criterion has once again shown that they are the best in the business when it comes to packaging films. THE ESSENTIAL JACQUES DEMY is a wonderful addition to the fold.
The six films in the set overall are very good. The restorations are uniformly superb. The only film where the original negative no longer exists (LOLA) is serviceably restored. As I made my way through all the films and the extensive extras, there were two things that stood out.
* The heroic effort of Demy's family to successfully raise his stature in the annals of cinema. When I was finished combing through the gift set, I wanted to give the family (wife Agnès Varda, son Mathieu and legally-adopted daughter Rosalie) a standing ovation for their peerless efforts.
* The interlocking characters and unifying elements of Demy's body of work really surface when his films are viewed back-to-back. Just a few of the myriad interesting connections: The settings are, with the exception of BAY OF ANGELS, working-class portside towns; all of the films feature strong leading-lady roles; the women are all unmarried, often with children; music is a strong element in all of them and all but UNE CHAMBRE EN VILLE are scored by the incomparable Michel Legrand.
Overall the films selected are a strong representation of Demy's oeuvre. A few notes on the individual titles:

LOLA (1961) Demy's first film has the then-novel idea of crisscrossing story lines, and provides a great role for Anouk Aimée as a cabaret chanteuse raising a family while awaiting the return of her long-lost lover. The tale involves a young wanderer entering her world. Camerawork by Raoul Coutard.
BAY OF ANGELS (1963) Great showcase for Jeanne Moreau as a woman addicted to the glamorous world of gambling.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Aaron R. West on September 11, 2014
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.
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