Place Colbert

Movie The Young Girls of Rochefort Jacques Demy (1967)
The Colbert square in Rochefort is a character in the film Les demoiselles de Rochefort. Dances and songs follow one another to the delight of the film's fans.
Place Colbert in Rochefort (photo credit: Yoyo / Wiki Commons)
Place Colbert in Rochefort (photo credit: Yoyo / Wiki Commons)

“Aimer la vie, aimer les fleurs

Aimer les rires et les pleurs

Aimer le jour, aimer la nuit

Aimer le soleil et la pluie.”

Lyrics of La chanson d’un jour d’été, extract from Les demoiselles de Rochefort (Lyrics Jacques Demy, Music Michel Legrand)

Many mythical scenes from Les Demoiselles de Rochefort were filmed on the Place Colbert in the city center. Delphine (Catherine Deneuve) and Solange (Françoise Dorléac) dance at the fair. They perform La chanson d’un jour d’été. As for Etienne (George Chakiris, actor in West Side Story) and Bill (Grover Dale), the two promoters, they are depressed after their dancers let them down. They ask the Demoiselles de Rochefort to replace them.

The inhabitants of Rochefort see Andy (Gene Kelly) and Etienne performing on one of the two stages built in its center. Maxence (Jacques Perrin) even enters the bar run by Yvonne (Danielle Darrieux), the twins’ mother.

Two years after The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Jacques Demy set his sights on Rochefort. However, the city of Charente-Maritime is not his first choice. He thinks of Hyères (Les dames d’Hyères for the pun). But the city in the South of France does not have a big enough place for all the dancers to perform their numbers. The director confided to a journalist of France-Soir on February 2, 1966: “I fell in love with the Place Colbert. It is square, surrounded by buildings drawn with a knife, with a paved ground where I will install my dancers, my orchestra. We will make a party there with barracks, bistro, …” .

Between May 31 and August 27, 1966, the technical team and the actors met in this garrison town. To brighten up the place, Bernard Evein, Jacques Demy’s faithful decorator, decided to repaint the facades of the buildings on the square in white, the shutters in pastel pink, azure blue or aniseed green. This gives the film a surreal charm. The clear water in the fountain is replaced by a blue liquid brought by the firemen. Today, if you are looking for the blue and white checkerboards on the floor, they no longer exist, but the places have kept their bright colors for the greatest happiness of the fans of the film.

Note that if there is a brewery Les demoiselles de Rochefort on the square, it has no direct link with a scene from the film. As for the bar of Yvonne Garnier (Danielle Darrieux), it was ephemeral and does not exist anymore. North of the Place Colbert, 15 minutes away on foot, there is a Place Françoise-Dorléac. To the south, a 30-minute walk down Jacques-Demy Avenue leads to the Charente River and the Martrou ferry bridge.

40 000

To repaint the facades of the buildings on Place Colbert, 40,000 m2 of white paint was needed.

Place Colbert

Place Colbert is located in the historical center of the city of Rochefort-sur-Mer in Charente-Maritime.

First named Place des Capucins and then Place de la Liberté where prisoners were executed, Place Colbert is the operational center of the city of Rochefort-sur-Mer.

The town hall is located there, as well as many private mansions. In its center, an 18th century fountain was installed.

This square owes its international fame to the film Les demoiselles de Rochefort by Jacques Demy.

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By Damien Canteau

Thursday, April 21, 2022

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