A bittersweet romance set in the port town of Cherbourg, France during the late 1950’s. Handsome auto mechanic Guy (Nino Castelnuovo) takes a fancy to Genevieve (Catherine Deneuve), who sells umbrellas in a quaint village shop. Against her mother’s wishes, romance blossoms. The two lovers are soon tested when Guy is shipped off to war in Algeria.
The Short & Sweet:
This musical tale will not be for everyone’s taste. Modern audiences may find the pacing leisurely given today’s use of hyperkinetic editing. Having said that, those immersing themselves in Jacques Demy’s “Umbrellas of Cherbourg” will be rewarded with an extravagantly romantic cinematic triumph.
Writer-Director Jacques Demy is one of the most accessible filmmakers of the French New Wave. For “Umbrellas”, he draws on his love of American musicals and the golden Age of Hollywood and gives it a uniquely French twist.
Michel Legrand’s absorbing score provides the pulse of the film; setting the tone from the jazzy dramatic highs to the haunting dramatic lows. All the dialogue is sung (in French with subtitles). But it is performed in a quasi-normal style that imbues the film with an almost surreal feel.
Adding to the fantasy tone is production designer Bernard Evein’s bold use of colors and fanciful art direction.
The cast is in fine form capturing both the pathos and humor of the story. Dashes of comedy and racy “dialogue” (for the times) emerge naturally in the drama. And Catherine Denevue is simply radiant.
But make no mistake; this 1964 classic is no frivolous “Beach Blanket Bingo”. Behind the vibrant colors, lyrical singing and fascinating set designs is a provocative tale -- especially for the early 1960s. It is a self-contained fantasy world with its feet firmly anchored in the harsh effects of war and the way people struggle to piece their lives back together. Winner of the 1964 Cannes Grand Prix and nominated for 5 Academy Awards, this is bittersweet musical tale on the spectacle of love.
The Koch-Lober Films DVD is a restored version of the original with eye-popping colors and crisp sound. The DVD Extras are meager at best. A fascinating excerpt from a documentary about Jacques Demy begins abruptly and ends just as quickly.