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THE YOUNG GIRLS TURN 25 a film by AGNÈS VARDA. 1993. France. 67 min. The seaside town of Rochefort recalls their experiences on the set of Jacques Demy’s French cinema classic.

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In 1993, trailblazing French filmmaker Agnès Varda returned to the titular port town of The Young Girls of Rochefort (Les Demoiselles de Rochefort [1967]) her husband had transformed into a musical spectacle twenty-five years earlier. Demy’s film—which is currently streaming on the Criterion Channel—revolves around a pair of twins (played by real-life sisters Catherine Deneuve and Françoise Dorléac) looking for love. As the film’s legendary composer Michel Legrand put it, it is “a film about joy,” and it should be added, it is a joy to watch.

 

Varda’s tribute to The Young Girls of Rochefort reveals how Demy made the film in retrospect, but also highlights the film’s popular endurance among its stars and host town on the occasion of the film’s 25th anniversary. Mixing video-camera footage, excerpts from The Young Girls of Rochefort, still images, and interviews with Rochefort’s denizens, Varda’s playful verve as an artist shines. She notices Demy’s legacy lives on in many forms, from the wistful memories of local extras to marriages that began on-set.

 

 

“I try to find a substance that is purely cinematic. To not simply say: image and sound. I ask myself, ‘What is cinema?’ I don’t know, I still have to find the definition, but I know that that’s what I’m looking for.” AGNÈS VARDA

 

“It started out like a family movie,” narrates Varda over footage of her daughter, Rosalie, as she twirls around with Catherine Deneuve. Over the course of The Young Girls Turn 25, it becomes evident the spirit of friendliness and closeness inherent to the “family movie” spread beyond the central cast, showing how a film can become a magnet of joy for a community. In the words of local kindergarten teacher and cinephile Marc Le Gouard, the film “belongs to the people of Rochefort, [it is] a gigantic home movie.”

 

Agnès Varda (1928 – 2019) was a renaissance woman whose work across mediums is both electric and caring. After studying literature and psychology at the Sorbonne, Varda began working as a still photographer. Her early compositions are the work of a refined eye driven by empathy, qualities that would flourish in her career as a filmmaker. Films such as Cléo de 5 à 7 (1962), Vagabond (1985), and Les Glaneurs et la Glaneuse (2000), are just a few of the many cinematic treasures she left behind. To quote Martin Scorsese, Varda was “one of the Gods of cinema.”

 

Text written by Nicolas Pedrero-Setzer. Special thanks to Rosalie Varda, Brett Sharlow, the Criterion Channel, Frédérique Rouault & MK2 Films.

 

To see more films by Agnès Varda, including in-depth supplements on the director and the films, visit the Criterion Channel.

Credits for
THE YOUNG GIRLS TURN 25
with
Catherine Deneuve, Agnès Varda, Michel Legrand, Jacques Perrin & Bertrand Tavernier
written by
Agnès Varda
music
Michel Legrand & Jacques Loussier
cinematography
Alexandre Auffort, Stéphane Krausz, Patrick Mounoud, Georges Strouvé & Agnès Varda
sound
Thierry Ferreux, Jean-Luc Rault-Cheynet & Bernard Seidler