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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. My favorite "discovery" here is 'Bay of Angels,' featuring the great, impossibly magnetic Jeanne Moreau playing a truly great character (wonderfully well written and breathtakingly embodied by the actor), some luscious b/w cinematography (beautifully rendered on blu), and a fine score. And it's really nice to see 'Umbrellas' finally looking (and sounding) as good as it should. This set is a treasure, and worth every cent. As terrific a release as this is, Criterion will probably top themselves later this year with the forthcoming Tati set. This company, along with Arrow in the UK, just keeps getting better and better. The additions to their catalogue this year have been incredible.
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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. Claude Mann is perfect as a young guy who meets Moreau by chance and ends up addicted to her.
THE UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG (1964) This timeless classic put both Demy and Michel Legrand on the international map. The exquisite film transfer makes the film more radiant than ever. Five Oscar nominations (Foreign Language Film, Story and Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen, Song "I Will Wait for You," Original Score and Adaptation or Music Treatment .)
THE YOUNG GIRLS OF ROCHEFORT (1967) Exuberant musical from the pen of Legrand. The most joyful and upbeat of the series. Features wonderful sun-dappled and splashy cinematography by Ghislain Cloquet. Final film for Françoise Dorléac, Catherine Deneuve's sister. Oscar nominee for Best Musical.
DONKEY SKIN (1970) Adaptation of Charles Perrault's fairy tale has ravishing photography by Cloquet and a great central performance by Catherine Deuneuve, compensating for Jacques Perrin's wrongheaded prince. Unusual subject matter, not only for a musical but for a fairy tale, of incest.
UNE CHAMBRE EN VILLE (1982) Darkest of the films and operatic in format and song score, this film features strong acting by the principals: Dominique Sanda, Michel Piccoli, Richard Berry and Danielle Darrieux. A late-career gem in Demy's canon.
A series of Demy's SHORT FILMS lends the set a good sense of range and perspective.

The extras, as mentioned, are without exception top-notch. Best of the lot is the visual essay "Jacques Demy, A to Z" by film critic James Quandt. Also deserving of high merit are Agnès Varda's 1995 documentary THE WORLD OF JACQUES DEMY and her 1993 documentary THE YOUNG GIRLS TURN 25.
Retailing for a hefty $125, look for flash sales on Amazon, the Criterion website (usually in February and October) and other places. Overall an outstanding addition to a serious film-collector's library and the director's endearing fan base. This set leaves the viewer with a very warm glow and a taste for more.
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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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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. Musicals are my blind spot, but I found myself enjoying The Umbrellas of Cherbourg far more on this new visit, and I enjoyed 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 would have liked more 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.

I'd say this is a must buy for anyone with even a slight interest in Demy, even if he was up and down as a filmmaker.
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on February 9, 2015
Jacques Demy's films fall squarely in with the French New Wave, both in date and in style, but Demy is such a relaxed, populist filmmaker that he feels worlds apart from most of the movement. From the low-stakes romance of LOLA on through the achingly lovely THE YOUNG GIRLS OF ROCHEFORT, the first four films in this set are among the best ever made, beautiful and emotional and fantastically crowd-pleasing. While DONKEY SKIN and UNE CHAMBRE EN VILLE are perhaps a little bit less essential than the first four films of the set and it leaves out at least one Demy film that fans of Lola absolutely need to see, this is nevertheless a worthy, beautiful blu-ray set, and one that needs to be seen by anyone with a fondness for classic Hollywood style.
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on December 2, 2015
Breathtaking collection of Jacques Demy's iconic works from Criterion. The set is not cheap, but it's worth every penny for anyone who treasures classic cinema. The restoration of each film -- the vivid colors and crystal clear audio -- are simply superb. This is highly recommended.
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on July 31, 2015
This is not only just an essential collection to movie buffs as the name implied but also the body work of a renowned nouvelle vague film maker. Prior to this release none of the DVD reissues did justice to the restoration effort. That could very well the case but the restoration decisions are somewhat outdated. For example, the transfer was made to 2K digital intermediate, whereas it could have been done to at least 4K, for a future-proof re-release whenever it is needed (and, judging from experience, it will).

One of the assets of this collection is to have "Les Demoiselles de Rochefort" transferred with the 70 mm version multichannel soundtrack, as compared to mono DVD prior release.

At any rate, the picture quality is overall miles away from the DVDs, and for that reason it is worth getting it.

For your reference: I watched the disks in an 4K TV set, upscaled signal from the Oppo BDP-103.
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on March 7, 2016
This is a FANTASTIC set of some VERY good films. I love Jacques Demy's films, ever since I saw The Umbrellas of Cherbourg in the theater in 1997.

The transfers are fantastic! I do have a complaint though with Amazon. I received this the first time and the boxed set that it came in was a little smashed in and not in perfect condition.

I then did an even exchange. The next box was also not in perfect condition. I decided to keep it as this seems to be an issue with Amazon.

I am not speaking about the shipping box. I am talking about box set "box" with the blu ray/dvds.
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on August 5, 2014
Great picture quality on the restored movies presented on blu-ray. Lots of good extras, including some of Demy's early short films.
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on September 4, 2015
Great transfers, many extra, cool booklet but why a dvd/br combo? Better sold separate.
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