It’s another week here at BCB After Dark: your happening spot for night owls, early-risers, new parents and Cubs fans abroad. Thank you so much for joining us. We know that you have a lot of choices to get your late-night jazz, movie and baseball fix and we’re glad that you chose us. Come in and take a seat. Let us check your hat and coat for you. Don’t lose the ticket. Bring your own beverage.
BCB After Dark is the place for you to talk baseball, music, movies, or anything else you need to get off your chest, as long as it is within the rules of the site. The late-nighters are encouraged to get the party started, but everyone else is invited to join in as you wake up the next morning and into the afternoon.
It was seventies night the last time we met and I asked you who your favorite Cubs player of the 1970s was. The winner, with 32 percent of the vote, was Bill Buckner. He may not be a favorite in Fenway, but Buckner seems to still have a warm place in the hearts of Cubs fans. Bruce Sutter was in second with 14 percent and José Cardenal was third with 11 percent. There’s a lot of good memories there of fairly bad teams. That seems like a contradiction, but Cubs fans are used to that.
I guess I should mention that if you missed Cub Tracks on Sunday, I have an article on the Cubs rebuild for Chicago Magazine. It’s written for a more general Cubs fan audience than you all likely are, but I’d appreciate it if you’d check it out.
Here’s the part where I talk about jazz and movies. Feel free to skip ahead to the baseball question at the end. You won’t hurt my feelings.
I promised an actual Art Pepper track tonight and this one is from an NET (the predecessor to PBS) broadcast in 1964. Pepper is on alto saxophone, Frank Strazzeri is on piano, Hersh Hamel is on bass and Bill Goodwin is on drums. They play three numbers here. As far as I can tell, Pepper is just out of prison in this clip after serving one of his several sentences for drug possession. But despite being locked up, he still hasn’t lost his talent and he picks up right where he left off.
Director Jacques Demy’s 1967 film The Young Girls of Rochefort (Les Demoiselles de Rochefort) is an utterly charming musical treat of the French New Wave. It’s a floating cotton candy cloud of a movie with a giant multi-colored swirl lollipop inside. Or maybe since the film is so quintessentially French, it’s a plate of multi-flavored macarons. This film is enchanting, delighting and utterly silly while at the same time revealing that even if he liked to hide it sometimes with a sheen of cynicism, Demy was a hopeless romantic to the core.
The Young Girls of Rochefort was Demy’s followup and spiritual sequel to 1964’s The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. For those of you unfamiliar with Cherbourg, it was an ambitious and experimental romance set to music. There aren’t really songs in Cherbourg so much as the characters sing their lines in a lyrical manner. There’s no dancing and no show-stopping numbers. The film was an international sensation at the time and even today shows up on many lists of the greatest films of all-time.
In contrast to Cherbourg, Rochefort is a much more conventional film that adopts more of the characteristics of the Hollywood musical. (There is one scene in Rochefort that is more reminiscent of Cherbourg where the characters converse in sung alexandrines.) But while Demy certainly pays tribute to the American musical with actual songs, big dance numbers and American film and dance legend Gene Kelly in a supporting role, what comes out in the end is idiosyncratic enough that Demy created something that is its own thing.
Remy re-teamed with songwriter Michel Legrand, costume designer Jacqueline Moreau and breakout star Catherine Deneuve from Cherbourg to make Rochefort. I also think that Demy’s wife Agnès Varda, an acclaimed director in her own right, played a big, if mostly uncredited, role in both films. Varda did supervise the 2011 restoration of Rochefort.
For years, Rochefort had been seen as the less-attractive younger sister of Cherbourg. But since that restoration, Rochefort’s reputation has risen. Both movies are color-saturated musical mediations on love. But while Cherbourg emphasizes the ache that comes with the longing for love, Rochefort is more about love’s joy. It’s a much more “fun” movie, even if Rochefort is the one with an axe murder in it.
Oh, did I forget to mention the axe murder? There’a s subplot about an axe murder, although no one in the film seems too upset about it. They even break out into song when talking about it. I am not making that up. As one critic wrote, Rochefort is the cheeriest film ever made that features an axe murder.
Demy transformed the city of Rochefort for the film. They re-painted the city in bright, primary colors and then turned up the color on the film to make everything look like a fantasy world. Everything was shot on location in Rochefort. It strikes me that around this time, Hollywood spared little expense to make a studio back lot look like a city street. In Rochefort, Demy often manages to make the streets of a dingy port town look like a studio back lot. As if the singing and dancing weren’t enough, all of this contributes to the “fairy tale” aspect of the entire story.
I can’t forget to mention the costumes. Oh, are the costumes incredible—the brightly colored outfits of the “swinging sixties” with just enough old-fashioned touches to remind you that Rochefort is a provincial, backwater town.
I almost wonder whether Demy did too good a job beautifying Rochefort. Everyone in the movie talks about the allure of leaving the small stage of Rochefort for the bright lights of Paris, but I kept wondering why. In “movie” Rochefort, the sun always shines, everyone wears brightly-colored and fashionable clothes, the hues of the city always pop and people break out into song and dance in the middle of the streets. There’s love around every corner. If I lived in a place like this “Rochefort”, I’d never want to leave.
The center of the film is the dreams and loves of the Garnier family in the small port town of Rochefort in southwestern France. The “demoiselles” of the story are Delphine and Solange Garnier, twin girls played by real-life sisters (but not twins) Catherine Deneuve and Françoise Dorléac. They run a music and dance studio in Rochefort, but they have bigger dreams. Delphine (Deneuve) is a dancer and dreams of making it big on the stage. Solange (Dorléac) is a musician who wants to make it big as a serious composer. Both of them also want to meet the man of their dreams. They both naturally think that they’d have a better chance of achieving their dreams in Paris than in out-of-the-way Rochefort.
The Dorléac sisters (Deneuve is a stage name) are terrific in the film, even if their songs are dubbed in by professional singers. Every step they take, dancing or otherwise, is filled with music. Don’t think that because Catherine was and still is a legend of the screen that her older sister Françoise isn’t every bit her equal in this movie. Françoise certainly would have been headed for greater stardom had she not been tragically killed in an automobile accident just three months after the release of this movie.
The twins’ never-married single mother Yvonne is played by French film legend Danielle Darrieux, who is also the only actor in the film who does her own signing. While we never learn anything about Delphine and Solange’s father (other than he had a beauty mark on his face), Yvonne also has a ten-year-old son named Booboo by a different old flame, Simon Dame (Michel Piccoli). Monsieur Dame (please call him Simon—“Monsieur Dame is so silly” he insists) desperately wanted to marry Yvonne, but Yvonne had reservations. Mostly, Yvonne did not think she could ever answer to the name “Madame Dame,” so she broke off their engagement. Again, I am not making that up.
Some Spoilers to follow, but I keep them light this time and limit it mostly to setting up the romantic couples.
Yvonne ran off and made up a story about marrying a Mexican millionaire before returning to Rochefort to raise Booboo and her two daughters. Yvonne runs a small snack bar where she sells coffee and french fries in the main center of the town. She has not seen or heard from Simon in ten years. Also, Simon never met Delphine and Solange as they were away at boarding school during his romance with Yvonne. This is important.
Simon has left Paris to return to Rochefort to open up a music store, still believing Yvonne is living in Mexico. He is also an old classmate of famous American composer Andy Miller (Gene Kelly), who is currently in residence in Paris.
The film starts out with a traveling carnival arriving in Rochefort, headed by two motorcycle salesmen Etienne and Bill. (Americans George Chakaris—Bernardo in West Side Story—and Broadway dancer Grover Dale) They’re going to set up a big fair in Rochefort for that weekend, have a good time for everyone and hopefully sell some motorcycles. They start to set up the fair with a big dance number at the beginning of the film.
The final major character of the film is Maxence (Jacques Perrin), a sailor assigned to the local naval base. But at heart, Maxence is a romantic and an artist. He dreams of a perfect life with a beautiful girl that he’s never met. He paints pictures of this fantasy girl and she looks just like Catherine Deneuve. Lucky for him, Delphine Garnier looks just like Catherine Deneuve! Or maybe not lucky for him, as he’s never met Delphine, just Yvonne and Solange.
However, Delphine’s ex-boyfriend Guillaume (who wants her back) is a pretentious artist who runs and art gallery and paints by hanging balloons filled with paint over a canvas and shoots them with a gun. (That’s a red flag, girls!) Delphine sees Maxence’s portrait of her hanging in Guillaume’s studio and immediately falls in love with this sensitive artist whom she’s also never met. Her ex-boyfriend, still trying to win her back, lies and tells her the artist is a soldier who has been transferred to Paris.
Solange, unaware that Monsieur Dame is the father of her brother Booboo, has struck up a friendship with Simon. She’s also a customer at his new music store. Solange asks Simon for a letter of introduction to his classmate Andy Miller, who is doing a performance in Paris. Simon agrees, not knowing that Andy has actually arrived in Rochefort to see his old friend. Andy and Solange bump into each other in the streets of Rochefort as Solange picks Booboo up from school. While picking up Solange’s musical score off the street, their eyes meet and it is kismet. They fall in love instantly. But Solange gets scared and walks away without ever knowing that this handsome foreigner is actually the Andy Miller that she’s been dying to meet.
By this point in the movie, it should be clear from anyone with a passing familiarity with romance movies or musicals who is the true love of all three of the Garnier women. But the rest of the film is the six people in the three couples just failing to connect with each other. They don’t know the other one is is town or even if they exist. They miss each other on the streets repeatedly by seconds. Will love ever come for these three couples? What do you think? Before you answer, have you seen The Umbrellas of Cherbourg? Maybe the answer isn’t as obvious as you think.
The other plot revolves around Bill and Etienne trying to make their weekend fair successful and them eventually having to enlist Delphine and Solange as entertainment when their current dancers run off with some sailors. The movie builds up to the fair on Sunday and the Garnier sisters’ big song and dance number. The fair subplot mostly serves to keep the characters busy and in motion, which is necessary to keep the “true love” couples from running into each other.
Oh yeah. There’s an axe murder too, which just comes out of left field. Demy uses it to make the point that love can have a dark side as well in this film about love’s joy and happiness, but mostly for me it just emphasizes how unreal this entire world is.
By this point, it should be clear that I absolutely freaking loved The Young Girls of Rochefort. Even though they’re both musicals by the same director and with the same star, it is a very different film from The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. But both are great movies that make you feel something. Cherbourg is certainly more experimental and ambitious, whereas Rochefort is closer in tone, but not exactly like, a traditional Hollywood musical. But if you ask me which film I enjoyed watching more, it might just be Rochefort. It’s been a few years since I watched Cherbourg, so I should watch it again to make sure. But you should definitely watch both. I get that some people just can’t get into musicals and if you’re one of those people, I understand that even while I feel sorry for you. Because you’re really missing out here.
Demy also made a third film before Cherbourg called Lola that I absolutely need to watch now. The three films form a kind of unofficial trilogy. The characters of Rochefort make references to the events and characters of both films, so nowadays they’d all be part of the Jacques Demy Cinematic Universe or something.
The Young Girls of Rochefort is available for streaming on HBO Max and the Criterion Channel. If you get Criterion, be sure to watch Agnès Varda’s documentary “The Young Girls Turn 25” about the making of the movie and the celebration that the town of Rochefort had on the 25th anniversary of the film in 1992.
Here’s the big hit song “Chanson des jumelles” or “The Twins Song” that Delphine and Solange Garnier introduce themselves with. The song is not subtitled in this video, but it’s a really high-quality copy and the available videos with subtitles just don’t look as good. I can tell you the song starts out by singing “We’re the twins born under the sign of Gemini” and they sing about the father they never knew, their hard-working mother and their dreams of making it big in Paris.
But don’t worry about the lyrics. Pay attention to the costumes, the setting, the music and the exuberance with which the Dorléac sisters (and the singers dubbing them) deliver the lines. If this clip doesn’t bring some joy to your face, I can’t help you. You’re not going to like the movie.
There was an English-language version of the movie, and if you want to see the same scene in English, here’s a bad quality video of that. The English-language version was filmed at the same time as the French version with the French actors lip-syncing to the songs and dialog recorded in English. The English version never made it into wide release and is considered a flop. I’ve read conflicting things about whether the complete English language version is “lost,” but I can assure you that it’s never been released on video and is currently unavailable for viewing in any format. So if you watch it, you’re going to have to watch it in French. Hopefully with subtitles, unless your French is better than mine.
Welcome back to everyone who skips the jazz and movies.
They’ve really got to end the lockout soon because I’m really running out of baseball things to ask you about. Sometime soon I’m going to ask you again when you think they’re going to play baseball again. That’s not because I want to know, but because I simply can’t think of another question.
But tonight we’re going to talk about the designated hitter. Whether you like it or not, it now looks like it will be here to stay. So that means the Cubs are going to need a ninth hitter in the lineup for 2022, whenever that starts.
So the question is, which Cubs player will get the most plate appearances as a DH in 2022? The days of just one big bat getting almost all of the at-bats as the DH pretty much died with David Ortiz’s retirement. These days, pretty much every American League team spreads the ABs at the DH position around. That gives players a kind of half-day off. It’s also useful for a player who might be injured and can’t throw in the field, but might still be able to swing a bat easily enough.
Even though the Cubs are unlikely to have one regular DH, somebody has got to get the most games at DH over the course of the season, right? So who will it be? I’ve got seven players who I think are reasonable candidates. You can also vote for “other” if you think all my candidates stink. Or if you want to vote “Someone not currently on the team,” I’ll allow that as a choice as well.
So who will be the Cubs’ number one DH in 2022?
Who will take the most plate appearances as a DH for the Cubs in 2022?
This poll is closed
Someone else on the team (explain in comments)
Someone not currently on the team (explain in comments)
Thank you again so much for stopping by.