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The Young Girls of Rochefort

I have seen very few musicals I enjoyed, but I’ve always stayed open to the format as one that could have potential. And finally, The Young Girls of Rochefort has provided an excellent example of the aesthetic I would expect from such a genre. The music is jazzy and never dull, the women and clothing and locations are all hot, and the visuals are always colorful and stimulating, as well as excellently composed.

Two men talking to two women with dancers in the background.

Rochefort plays with the structure of the standard musical quite a bit, which is something that I feel I have to look for given that there are such structured sets of rules defining the genre, especially from American sources. However, it’s not difficult to notice that it’s not just another musical - the entire narrative structure of the film is defined through its musical structure, rather than having some conversation and plot with musical numbers in-between. The music that characters participate in are central parts of their lives, but it’s not always clear whether or not they are aware of their performances, or the performances of others, which creates a very interesting environment whose guiding principles may or may not be clear even after the film is over.

The girls look over a curtain with mouths hanging open.

One of my favorite aspects of the film was the seemingly complete inability for me to predict exactly when and where and how instances of music would occur. Characters wander brilliantly from singing independently to streets full of dancers that occupy the background instead of the foreground, to areas full of musical instruments that are played, to conversations built upon poetry.

The main characters playing instruments.

This wasn’t the only thing that made the environment incredibly stimulating - the clothing and colors and tone of the dialog are all very appealing. Many of the characters are in the pursuit of a specific branch of art, and all are moderately successful in their pursuits, but love is the one thing that is just out of reach.

A character stands next to a piece of art resembling herself.

Serendipitous yearnings are a main part of Rochefort’s set of characters, and much of the film is dedicated to displaying near misses between characters who have met once before and long to meet again. The constant barrage of these scenes is a test of endurance, as most viewers would have no reason not to believe from the outset that the characters will have very few issues if any at all ending up with each other. But knowing what the end is probably going to be like doesn’t make watching the pain of generic depression from the lack of the one you want any less bittersweeet. No character is without their music, which is part of what drives them to move forward.

Two characters mingle in a music shop.

It’s also what brings everyone together. If it were not for music, there would be no plot, no structure, no technique… no film. And why shouldn’t this be the case? Any film that incorporates music to such an extent should show a consideration of such values, adhering to them or disregarding them based on its unique collection of purposes, and Rochefort succeeds with its high-quality structure.

The girls stand looking at each other with their arms crossed.

Rating: Excellent