dir. Jacques Demy

TIFF Cinematheque - Retrospective

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Jacques Demy pays grand homage to Jean Cocteau in this rock 'n' roll update of Orphée.

Demy pays grand homage to Cocteau in this rock 'n' roll update of Orphée (screening on August 13), a true film maudit which has been little seen since its debut. (It should be compared to Leos Carax's Cocteau-influenced cinema, also showing this summer.) Orpheus (Francis Huster) is a singer-composer who lives with Eurydice (Keiko Ito), a Japanese sculptress, in a château near Paris. Revived after electrocuting himself in rehearsal (playing a song called "Styx"!), Orpheus encounters the Devil, played by none other than Jean Marais, who was the doomed Orpheus in Cocteau's original. When Eurydice is found dead from an overdose, the anguished Orpheus starts receiving strange phone messages from the beyond, and decides he must enter the Underworld (a parking garage, hence the film's title) to retrieve his beloved. Reportedly inspired by The Doors (Jim Morrison was a friend of Demy and Varda), Demy's foray into contemporary pop culture displays many of his hallmarks — a remarkable use of colour (red and green especially), a Michel Legrand score, a mythic/fairy-tale setting, a preoccupation with mortality — and cleverly refashions a beloved work to his own unique aesthetic.