Jacques Demy's last live-action film and one of the final films of Yves Montand, made three years before his death, 1988's "Trois places pour le 26"/"Three Tickets for the 26th" is something of a secret gem. Inexplicably, it has never been shown in the United States, particularly given that Montand's co-stars are Françoise Fabian and Mathilda May.
Very much a burst-into-song, MGM-style musical that Demy loved (and appropriated), "Trois places" is also something of fictionalized biopic of Montand who plays himself as he prepares for "Montand Remembers," the show-within-the-film, and reminisces about his life and career while rehearsing. There's an apt vérité quality to Jean Penzer's cinematography.
Watching it, one is struck just how much Montand was the French equivalent of Frank Sinatra, a solid actor who was also a first-rate song-and-dance man. Few Americans realize that. But Montand came to America's attention in George Cukor's now-forgotten Marilyn Monroe pseudo-musical, "Let's Make Love" (1960), a film that was overshadowed by the notoriety of Montand's affair with Monroe during the production.
But even more relevant to "Trois places" (and predating "Let's Make Love" by a year) is "An Evening With Yves Montand" which opened on Broadway at Henry Miller's Theater on September 22, 1959, to positive reviews. The limited-run show was extended and played 42 performances.
Not surprisingly, Demy's house composer, Michel Legrand, wrote the original score for the film, which also has several standards interpolated, classics such as Edith Piaf's "La Vie En Rose" and Monroe's version of Cole Porter's "My Heart Belongs to Daddy," recorded for the Cukor film.
Montand would make only two more films - Jacques Deray's "Netchaïev est de retour" (1991) and Jean-Jacques Beineix's "IP5: L'île aux pachydermes" (1992), released after his death. Montand died on the set of the Beineix movie on the last day, after his very last shot.
He was 70.
As for Demy, the same year he made "Trois places," he collaborated with cartoonist Paul Grimault on "La table tournante"/"The Turning Table," an animation about a little clown who visits Grimault - the clown being the star of his movie "Le Roi et l'Oiseau." Their conversation is laced with clips of other Grimault films. At one point, Anouk Aimée joins the duo.
As the French would say, très charmant.
That goes for "Trois places pour le 26," as well.
Demy died two years after make it - in 1990. He was only 59.