Catherine Deneuve first portrayed the cold but erotic persona, for which she would be nicknamed the “ice maiden”, in Roman Polanski‘s suspense classic Repulsion (1965), reinforcing it in Luis Buñuel‘s Belle de Jour (1967), and reaching a peak in Tristana (1970).
Catherine Deneuve was born Catherine Fabienne Dorléac in Paris, France to French stage and screen actor Maurice Dorléac and actress Renée Deneuve. Deneuve has two sisters, Françoise Dorléac (who died in a car crash in 1967, aged 25) and Sylvie Dorléac (born 1946), and a maternal half-sister, Danielle.
Catherine was thirteen when she began her film career with a small role in André Hunebelle‘s Les Collégiennes (1957) with her younger sister Sylvie Dorléac, who acted in a few films casually as a child. Deneuve was credited as Catherine Dorléac but subsequently used her mother’s maiden name as her stage name in order to differentiate herself from her sisters.
Slim, pale-skinned and brunette, Françoise graced several movies before hitting stardom with François Truffaut‘s melodrama La Peau douce (1964) and the classic spy spoof L’Homme de Rio (1964) with Jean-Paul Belmondo. Les Portes Claquent (Michel Fermaud and Jacques Poitrenaud, 1960) was the first movie Françoise starred together with her younger sister Catherine.
The Young Girls of Rochefort (Jacques Demy, 1967) takes place over the course of one weekend in the seaside town of Rochefort, where a fair is coming to the town square. The story centers on twin sisters Delphine (Catherine Deneuve) and Solange (Françoise Dorléac) — Delphine teaches ballet classes and Solange gives music lessons for a living, but each longs to find her ideal love and a life outside of Rochefort. When the fair comes to town, Delphine and Solange meet two smooth-talking but kind-hearted carnies, Étienne (George Chakiris) and Bill (Grover Dale).
The twins’ mother Yvonne (Danielle Darrieux) owns a café in the center of town, and pines for a fiancé she left impulsively ten years prior due to his embarrassing last name of “Dame.” Yvonne’s café becomes a central hub for Étienne and Bill as well as most of the other characters in the film. In the café, Yvonne meets a sailor about to be demobbed from the navy, Maxence (Jacques Perrin). Maxence is a poet and painter, and is searching for his true feminine ideal. Little does Yvonne know, her former fiancé, Simon Dame (Michel Piccoli), has recently opened a music store in Rochefort. He knows his fiancée had twins from a previous relationship, but he never met them. Solange, an aspiring songwriter, enlists the help of Simon Dame (she is unaware of his relationship with her mother), who promises to introduce her to his successful American colleague Andy Miller (Gene Kelly). As Solange is on her way to pick up her younger brother BouBou from school, she happens to bump into a charming foreigner, who turns out to be Andy. However, the two do not exchange names.
Meanwhile, Delphine is unhappy in her relationship with the egotistical gallery owner Guillaume (Jacques Riberolles), so she ends the relationship. In the gallery, as she is about to leave, Delphine notices a painting that looks remarkably like her. The image was in fact painted by Maxence. Back in the square, the two female dancers in Étienne and Bill’s show run off with sailors, so they ask Delphine and Solange to perform, offering them a free ride to Paris in return. On the day of the fair, the paths of all of the characters cross again at the town square and in Yvonne’s café.
Michel Legrand composed the score, to Demy’s lyrics. The most famous songs from this film score, which is generally less acclaimed than that for The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (also directed by Demy), are A Pair of Twins (Chanson des Jumelles in French) and You Must Believe in Spring (Chanson de Maxence). The film was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Original Score (Original or Adaptation).