Jacquot of Nantes (1991)
Jacques Demy burst upon France's New Wave cinema with his feature film debut Lola, then followed it up with Bay of Angels and The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, in which every line of dialogue is sung. Hollywood took notice and helped finance The Young Girls of Rochefort, after which he (and Lola) moved to Los Angeles to film Model Shop. It was the beginning of his decline, which David Shipman summed up in 'The Story of Cinema' as “a sad example of starting at the top and working downwards”. The same cannot be said for this lovingly made biopic, which remains enchanting throughout.
Written and directed by Demy’s wife Agnès Varda, Jacquot of Nantes is based on Demy’s memories of his happy childhood. Living above his father’s garage, Jacquot’s carefree existence is occupied by puppet shows and movies, which he later restages for family and friends. The German occupation of France seemingly provides only a minor inconvenience, causing Jacquot and his brother to live in the country with their aunt and her husband, a kindly cobbler. Here he is loaned a projector, and the young Jacquot of Nantes takes his first steps towards becoming Jacques Demy.
Interspersing these depictions of Demy’s childhood are present day footage of the terminally ill director and extracts from his life’s work. With their inclusion charmingly flagged by an illustrated hand pointing left or right, these clips often thematically link to an episode from his past. Yet they are not the only references to Demy’s films, which keen observers will find scattered throughout.
Alternatively shot in black and white and vibrant colours, Jacquot of Nantes is not just a valentine from a wife to her husband, but also a homage from one filmmaker to another. Jacques Demy passed away ten days after filming completed.
as Jacques Demy
as Jacques Demy