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One might argue for Lola (1960), The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964), or the lesser-known Une Chambre en Ville (1982) as Jacques Demy's greatest feature. But his most ambitious is this 1967 big-budget musical shot exclusively on location, a tale of various dreamers searching for and usually missing their ideal mates, who are usually only blocks away. The score is Michel Legrand's finest, with various jazz elements, lyrics in alexandrines by Demy, and intricately structured reprises that match the poetic, crisscrossing plot. Demy pays tribute to the American musical yet mixes in accoutrements of French poetic realism: dreams and reality coexist more strangely and stubbornly than in most other musicals. The results may be quintessentially French, but the energy and optimism are clearly inspired by America, and Gene Kelly's appearances are sublime. With Catherine Deneuve. In French with subtitles.

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