Saturday, April 18, 2020

Look With Your Eyes: Bernard Evein and Jacques Demy

I've been gobbling up movies from the Criterion Collection, and while I'm hardly the first or last to admire the aesthetic of Jacques Demy's films (so far I've watched The Umbrellas of Cherbourg and The Young Girls of Rochefort), I haven't seen much praise or exploration of the set and production designer, Bernard Evein, who seems to have brought much of Demy's dream world to life. 

It's maddeningly difficult to find decent photos of their work, partly (I think) because film was marketed differently in the 60s, partly because most blogs about their works are in French, and partly because the set isn't usually the focus of admiration for the films. 

I particularly want to see more of the set from The Model Shop (1969), below. There are some fantastic details from clips I've watched, but hardly any stills. You can see how The Model Shop and The Umbrellas have a similar saturated color pallet. The Young Girls is referred to by Evein as having a "pastel" pallet, but it's still pretty eye-popping. 


My favorite wall treatments from the Umbrellas of Cherbourg are the oranges (see several photos down, though the color isn't great in the photo I chose) and the metallic purple seen here. Of course I love the garish pink-orange and pink-red combos they use too.



In 2013, there was an exhibit in Paris called "The World of of Jaques Demy" that featured costumes from his films and some of the wallpapers, which I understand were often hand-painted into real homes by Bernard Evein, specifically to play well off the costumes.  



I watched a short documentary interviewing Bernard Evein as he worked on the set of The Young Girls of Rochefort. One remarkable thing about the sets of these movies is that they don't film in a studio but actually created apartments and whole shops for their set within real towns. They're painting the outside of the public buildings! There's a funny section in the documentary where they interview the mayor of Rochefort to ask how the film set has affected the town, and he says he's memorized most of the songs from hearing the cast practice in the city hall building. Evein and his team also struggle with how to control the natural lighting for their purposes and if you watch the documentary before watching the Young Girls, it's fun to note the small details that Evein used to adjust lighting and other details to his vision. I'm especially attached to the pink window frames and matching molding within the sister's apartment. 




You can tell from the behind the scenes footage (the documentary) that Catherine Deneuve is a bit of a diva. The other main actress in the film, Françoise Dorléac, is Deneuve's actual older sister, who died in a car crash soon after the making of the the Young Girls. In the documentary she tells Catherine to stop making a scene about her dress not fitting properly. 

Here is one of Evein's lovely illustrations that was the concept art for a room in the Young Girls. You can see a woman in the documentary painting that piece that's on the left wall in the sketch. I wonder what happened to their sets afterwards?! Did people live in or work out of the sets they built directly into a town?


The cafe in the town square from the Young Girls is amazing. I want the brass-glass-bubble wall SO much, and I really hope that it went into some design-lover's apartment after the movie was finished filming. The patio furniture (teal lucite!!!) from the cafe kills me, you can see it in the background of the photo of the carnies dancing (get a load of those boots, too). 




If you like the world of Demy and Evein then you should just watch the movies for yourself, I suppose! The costumes are fun (particularly the hats in the Young Girls) and I appreciate that the girls are all in kitten heels, but the costumes pale in comparison to the sets, in my opinion. Even so, I had to mention the obnoxious ex-boyfriend's several mega velvet suits with contrasting shirts and ribbon bow ties and these under-reported sequin tops with white jeans. 



But wait, there's MORE! The movie posters that were used to promote the films are fantastic. Here are some from Romania, Japan, and Russia. 



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