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shorts by Jacques Demy

Posted by martinteller on July 25, 2014



Les horizons morts is Demy’s 1951 debut, a wordless 8-minute short about a young man (Demy himself, in a rare onscreen appearance) suffering a long dark night of the soul, tormented over a lost love.  While the film isn’t going to make you sit up and take notice, it’s pretty accomplished for a director just out of his teens.  There’s an unusual “melting” effect when the story goes into flashback, an effect I don’t think I’ve seen before.  The experimental use of sound doesn’t really work, but the music choices are solid.  A notch above your average student production.  Rating: Good (73)

Le sabotier du Val de Loire is a documentary of a week in the life of an elderly cobbler of wooden clogs living in the Loire valley with his wife and son.  It appears to be a slightly manufactured documentary, with some sequences and images that look rather staged… perhaps not as staged as Nanook of the North, but I can’t help thinking Demy did some posing of the participants.  Nonetheless, it’s artfully done, although much more of a downer than one expects from Demy.  The film is not especially concerned with the clogmaker’s craft and is more of a meditation on impending death and past regrets.  I didn’t really “enjoy” it, but it’s done well enough (there are a couple of gorgeous shots, too).  Rating: Good (72)

Ars tells the story of Jean-Marie Vianney, the 19th century pastor in the village of Ars.  Vianney practiced a very strict form of religion, including self-flagellation.  He was harsh with his parishioners, calling them out on their disinterest in the church and scolding them for participating in cabarets and dancing.  They rebelled against him, but his pious dedication won them over and they flocked to his confessional until his death.  He was later venerated.  The story is mildly interesting, and features some fine camerawork, but I didn’t care all that much.  I couldn’t tell if Demy wanted to make this film because he admired Vianney or just because he thought his life was compelling, but I just thought he was a pretty run-of-the-mill religious nutball.  I would have liked some background information on how he got to be that way.  Rating: Fair (64)

La luxure, Demy’s contribution to the omnibus film The Seven Deadly Sins (which includes pieces by Godard and Chabrol), is only short in this collection that feels like proper Demy.  His segment concerns the sin of lechery.  Happy-go-lucky Jacques (Laurent Terzieff, reportedly playing a younger version of the director himself) bumps into his friend Bernard (Jean-Louis Trintignant).  The two go into a café and look over a book of Hieronymus Bosch, which prompts Bernard to relate the story of being a young boy preparing for his communion exam and conflating “lechery” and “luxury”.  The short is playful and witty with a lot of clever wordplay.  Demy’s sense of fantasy comes across with a fantastic vision of Hell, featuring men trying to eat flaming plates of food and women being burned by their furs and jewels.  With a graceful camera and a lively Legrand score, this little gem should satisfy any Demy fan.  Rating: Very Good (82)


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