Jacquot de Nantes

1991 [FRENCH]

Biography / Drama

IMDb Rating 7.7/10 10 1789 1.8K

Plot summary

May 25, 2023 at 09:35 AM


Agnès Varda

Top cast

1.08 GB
French 2.0
23.976 fps
1 hr 59 min
P/S ...

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by lasttimeisaw 8 / 10

a farewell visual memoir of Jacques Demy

My second Varda's entry (after CLEO FROM 5 TO 7 1962, 7/10) is her cinematic eulogy to her late husband, the filmmaker Jacques Demy (1931-1990) after 28 years of marriage, who passed away one year before the film's release, recounts Demy's life from childhood to adolescence in Nantes, re-enacts mostly sketchy episodes of that time from Demy's memoir, particularly during the Occupied France in WWII and Jacquot (Jacques' nickname) 's ever-growing passion towards cinema.

Named after his paternal grandfather, it is unexpectedly poignant when a young Jacques (played by Maron, Joubeau and Monnier in different ages) is bringing to visit his grandpa's grave and see his own name on the tombstone, as if the reincarnation just completes another circle. Demy's father Raymond (Dublet) is a mechanic and his mother Marilou (De Villepoix) is a coiffeuse, they own a garage and he has a younger brother Yvon (Delaroche, Averty in different ages). Most of the narrative is conveyed with unaffected naturalism by its cast under a blanched monochrome, with whimsical coloured-shots materialise irregularly and presumably function as indicators which influence Demy's life afterwards, like Theatre Guignol.

Varda's essayist construal of the biographical texts largely restores Jacquot's early years in a lifelike form, as a documentary made in 1930-40s, details mostly convivial vignettes with references in Demy's own distinguished oeuvre - in my case I only watched DONKEY SKIN (1970, 4/10) and THE UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG (1964, 7/10) - introduced and bookended by opposite pointing fingers respectively, and underlined with a miscellany of Demy's favourite classical music.

From a carefree child who enjoys marionette show, to a bit older in the Occupation period, becomes repulsive towards the war, then in the latter half, the film's focus shifts to the zealousness of cinema, not only a frequent spectator, the young Jacquot self-studies rudimentary knowledge of cinematography, makes his own live-action and animation shorts with a hand-hold camera bartered from an antique shop, and plays them at home on an ersatz screen set in the closet. Destiny has been kind to him, a chief struggle is his working-class father's initial disagreement of Demy's decision to throw himself into the movie business, but when he realises his son does have the talent, he is sensible enough to let him go to Paris, where the film eventually draws to a close.

JACQUOT DE NANTES is Varda's personal but endearing portrayal of her beloved husband, a farewell visual memoir of him, there are brief documentaries of an ailing Demy talking feebly in his last days, and near-end, the macro close-ups of his wrinkles, grey stubble and finally zoom in on his nebulous eyes, like a valedictory gaze during the final stage of a sacred catharsis to let him go, the film itself stands as a testimony of their ever-lasting love, poetically and romantically, it evokes great intimacy towards those we love and cherishes the time when we are together.

Reviewed by OldAle1 9 / 10

a heartfelt and moving tribute from one great director to another

I'll start right off by saying that if you haven't seen any of the major films from the subject of this terrific bio-docudrama, Jacques (Jacquot) Demy, then you probably won't get much out of it and in fact I'd suggest you'd be much better off watching "Les Parpluies de Cherbourg" instead. That 1964 musical is probably Demy's most famous film, and it's one that is featured in several clips (along with every one of the late director's features if I'm not mistaken) in this loving recreation of the director's early years, taken from his memoirs and directed by his equally talented director wife as he was dying of AIDS.

The film shifts fluidly from black and white to color - often a remarkable reproduction of 60s Technicolor, perhaps a tribute more to young Jacquot's early visions than to his 30s and 40s surroundings - and from the present-day (1990) dying man conversing about his past to recreations of those formative years, falling in love with movies in "Snow White" (1937, when Demy was 6) through leaving for film school in Paris after years of trying to convince his stubborn working class father that film was a worthy profession at the end of the 1940s.

World War II is of course a central motif in any film about people living in France during that era, but interestingly enough the film takes the unsentimental childish view that (presumably) was reality for the director at the time - it was for him, living in a provincial town in the west of the country and being lucky enough to come through it with family intact, an inconvenience or an adventure most of the time - here he discovers a love of the country, but there he discovers an abhorrence of violence, which ends up reflecting in some of the sunniest and most fairy-tale-like films in French cinema. No, for the young Jacques Demy the real struggle was with his fair but very firm male parent, never indulgent like his mother and determined that his eldest son should learn a real trade as a mechanic - much of Parpluies certainly derives from those teen-age years of tech school and working on cars.

My favorite parts of the film are probably those devoted to Demy's nascent homegrown film career - unlike many of his better-known peers like Godard and Chabrol, Demy was never a critic and started out making films not long after he began to be obsessed with watching them, on his own at first with hand-cranked and then cheap electric 9.5 mm cameras. Several reconstructions of his early work with human actors and with animation provide both amusement and a real sense that here is a person who found his calling early, and never gave up despite the easier paths open to him. It would be an excellent film for all budding filmmakers to watch, and it's another example of Varda's terrific understanding of the documentary and essay forms, not quite in either category, not quite fiction, but all love and affection.

Reviewed by Quinoa1984 9 / 10

All the love to Jacques and to cinema itself

I know logically that the many, many cut-always to the Demy film clips break up the flow of the dramatizations of his childhood (and those extreme close-ups of the late Demy, his skin showing I believe the lesions from HIV that would take his life too soon are particularly jarring, sometimes Im not sure in a good way). But emotionally, what Varda is doing here is all of a piece, and (Nazis and Occupied France aside) it all makes me wish I could have been a boy/young man in Frnace in the late 30s and 40s.

In a way, it feels kind of like an excellent midway midway between Cinema Paradiso (which I like but I once called too "shmoopy" and I stick but it) and Au revoir les Enfants (which I love, but has a slightly harder edge and sadder overall feeling). Varda gets natural performances, and it's a striking and cool balance between warmth and a frank realism (ie boys showing a girl their little penises is treated as a cheerful activity, for both sexes).

And really, you don't get this in cinema practically ever - a husband and wife filmmaking pair, both playful and innovators. where the latter made a literal cinematic love letter to the former after he died (albeit Demy was writing his memoties when he died) - that would make it important by itself. That it is also beautiful to look at in black and white and is edited like a wonderful dream makes it even more special: it's a love letter to her husband, but also to cinema and creative perseverance itself; when he as a boy makes the little hand-cranked projector, it feels like a small miracle.

Read more IMDb reviews

No comments yet

Be the first to leave a comment