French director Jacques Demy, who died in 1990 aged 59, was at his best an inspired and audacious talent, a film-maker with a penchant for poignant fantasies and surrealist fairy tales. And this is a glowing, if over long tribute to the man best remembered for Lola and The Umbrellas Of Cherbourg, directed by his wife and companion of 33 years, Agnes Varda.
Filmed in predominantly black and white, Jacquot De Nantes is, however, more than simply a dramitised documentary of Demy's childhood, rather it's the story of one small boy's obsessive love-affair with the cinema. Basing her screenplay on both Demy's and her own reminisces, Varda has elegantly reconstructed the young Jacques' seemingly impossible dream of becoming a director, and turned it into a vibrant, joyful fable, chronicling his life in pre-World War Two Nantes from the age of eight, through to 18 when he left home, bound for Paris, intent on studying film. With dramatic licence Varda pinpoints the exact people, situations and memories that informed his work and intercuts them with the scenes from his movies that they in turn inspired, uncovering his early interest in puppet shows and his first efforts with a 9.5mm camera, working alone in the attic of his parents' garage, producing elaborate animated adventures.
Lovingly shot at the actual house Demy grew up in, this lyrical, attentive portrait of an artist's conception and grounding makes for fascinating viewing, and while the glimpse we have of the real Demy amount to little more than a sick, old man in cameo they, like the film, offer a touchingly profound and observant footnote to a sometimes glorious career.