Jacques Demy’s version of The Pied Piper is as distanced and uncertain as his masterpiece The Young Girls of Rochefort is ecstatically sure of itself. Watching this interesting but failed film, it becomes clear just how much Demy depended on the music of Michel Legrand for his essential quality of splurging romance. Pied Piper cries out for the charge of Legrand’s music, but all it gets is the hippy-dippy, Ye Olde Medieval noodlings of Donovan, who is best known for his radio hit “Mellow Yellow” and for being a film-long in-joke for Bob Dylan in D.A. Pennebaker’s Don’t Look Back. Donovan looks like Roger Daltrey’s younger, personality-free brother, and his doughy lack of affect casts a pall over the production, so that even seasoned scenery-chewers like John Hurt, Donald Pleasance and Diana Dors (playing a matron called Frau Poppendick!) get lost in the tentative, hazy blue and greens of the mise-en-scène. Demy doesn’t do much with the rats infesting the town, and his treatment of the corrupt clergy and other officials has no weight or complexity. He seems to be attempting a serious statement on renewal and purity, but winds up with nothing but preachiness and aimless camera movement. Existentialist underpinnings are lobbed at us in dialogue, but only one scene feels like Demy, when Jack Wild’s Gavin tells a girl he loves that he is trying to capture her soul in a portrait. Otherwise, Demy’s Pied Piper lacks that touch of magic that activated his earlier movies so beautifully.
The transfer is so poor that you can barely see people's faces, let alone all the dark interiors, and the sound is just as bad, whispery one moment, too loud the next.
Only for Jacques Demy completists, and the stray Donovan devotee.