By Lindsey Bahr
Updated July 29, 2014 at 04:00 AM EDT
Everett Collection

Jacques Demy was a French New Wave outlier — a romantic in the age of the cerebral. While his contemporaries (Godard, Rohmer) trafficked in iconoclastic experimentation, Demy created giddy fantasy worlds, finding inspiration in the effervescent golden age of Hollywood musicals and the fairy tales of his youth. His most famous movie, 1964’s confection-in-song The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, made Catherine Deneuve a star and is one of six films included in Criterion’s The Essential Jacques Demy (1961-82, 9 hrs., 55 mins., NR). All of them have been lovingly restored under the supervision of the director’s widow, fellow filmmaker Agnès Varda (Cleo From 5 to 7).

Perhaps the biggest misconception about Demy is that his films were frivolous — a sentiment quite literally colored by the Popsicle-hued buoyancy of Cherbourg and The Young Girls of Rochefort. But for Demy, glistening tunes and radiant colors did not have to be superficial. There’s a somberness beneath the polished veneer; his films teem with tales of broken families, illicit pregnancies, incest, and the tragedy of fate.

With the box set, binge in chronological order and experience Demy’s evolution from a scrappy, budget-conscious artisan working in black and white to a master builder of painstakingly elaborate universes. Then enjoy the treasure trove of EXTRAS, which range from early Demy shorts to two fantastic documentaries that Varda made about her husband after he died in 1990 at 59. Her contributions to preserving her husband’s legacy are extraordinary — a bonus as dreamy as Demy’s films themselves. A