Bay of Angels
(La baie des anges)

Screening on Film
Directed by Jacques Demy.
With Jeanne Moreau, Claude Mann, Paul Guers.
France, 1963, 35mm, black & white, 82 min.
French with English subtitles.

Demy’s second feature film is mostly contained within the closed world of the casino, through which Claude Mann’s disillusioned bank clerk follows Jeanne Moreau’s gambling demimondaine. Post-Jules et Jim and La Notte, Moreau glides through this parallel dimension immortal and evanescent, as suspended in cinematic time as Demy’s minimalistic black-and-white widescreen. The cool composition mimics the escapist architecture of the casino—a place of suspended reality with its own rules and morals and dramatic rhythm checked by Michel Legrand’s repeating musical refrain, which would seem hopelessly romantic in any other film. Here, it plays with the intersections of “real” drama and the kind contrived within the controlled space of the casino or the cinema. The couple’s undefined relationship follows the unpredictable rises and falls of perpetually risking it all, guided by passing whims or mystical signs, living moment to moment on a playing field continually leveled by the extremes of luxury and poverty. Expressing both the disappointment and the thrill of modern living with its arbitrary set of socioeconomic restrictions, this was the last film Demy made which still operated within the naturalistic restraints of the nouvelle vague, surprising even that wave with its capricious ending—as carefree and unpredictable as a spin of the roulette wheel.

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Once Upon a Song... Jacques Demy

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