“Come, Jacquot, it’s the end”
‘Jacquot de Nantes’, directed by Agnès Varda in 1991, is a biopic of filmmaker Jacques Demy that uses contemporary documentary footage and scenes from his movies to illustrate a dramatic presentation of his childhood during and after the Second World War. It’s a multi-layered film that says a great deal not only about Demy and his films, but also about the birth of the French New Wave and about childhood obsessions. It’s a film about filmmaking that through a mixture of different styles and stocks creates a collage effect that, much like in a Fellini movie, represents the intersection between documentary and memory. The scenes set in and around Nantes are beautifully framed, the city becomes a nostalgic and picturesque placeholder for the events that occur, whilst the clips of Demy close to death are abstract but intimate. At one stage the camera pans closely along the skin of his arm and up into his eye, the dying Demy becoming an extension of the streets and countryside of his childhood. The references to, and clips from, his films, such as ‘Donkey Skin’ and ‘Les Demoiselles de Rochefort’ are also introduced subtly without force-feeding the audience their significance. In this way they become a key part of the texture of the movie, and a component of the theme of memory and nostalgia. It’s an engrossing story, it’s magically filmed and it alters how I feel about Demy’s work. It also changes how I feel about Agnès Varda’s films, so far I’ve only seen ‘Cléo from 5 to 7’ but I’ll rectify this.
Would I recommend it? Yes – but only after watching a few of Demy’s movies to get a taste of his style and preoccupations. This will really help in understanding the significance of the events that shaped him as a filmmaker.