This is how I would introduce a newcomer to foreign classics, from most accessible to least accessible. I'm still a…
The Umbrellas of Cherbourg
a film for all the young lovers of the world
This simple romantic tragedy begins in 1957. Guy Foucher, a 20-year-old French auto mechanic, has fallen in love with 17-year-old Geneviève Emery, an employee in her widowed mother's chic but financially embattled umbrella shop. On the evening before Guy is to leave for a two-year tour of combat in Algeria, he and Geneviève make love. She becomes pregnant and must choose between waiting for Guy's return or accepting an offer of marriage from a wealthy diamond merchant.
When I was growing up in the 60’s, if my Dad wasn’t practicing piano, or we weren’t watching TV in the evening, the radio was always on. Now, being the mid-sixties, you would expect this would be a smorgasbord of Beatles, Stones, The Birds, and an assortment of early hippy fodder. Not so on CFRB 1010 AM, the station my parents listened to. CFRB was a conservative ‘adult’ radio station. In 1964 you would be very likely to hear Dean Martin, and very unlikely to hear The Beatles except maybe as part of the newscast reporting on how teenagers were losing their minds en masse.
One of the most likely songs you’d bump into was I’ll wait for you
The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is something of an outlier in the French New Wave canon. It's predominantly a jazz opera, highly influenced by American musicals, and yet maintains a unique sensibility that defined new wave cinema. It's shot primarily on location in Cherbourg, but the real-life locations have been given an artifice through lurid Technicolor, studio-lighting, post-modern graffiti and a pastiche of delightfully outrageous costume choices.
This could be a loose adaptation of Pagnol's Fanny trilogy, or just as easily a musical rendering of Kazan's Splendor in the Grass filtered through the pastels of West Side Story.
The Umbrellas of Cherbourg remains an utterly unique, delectable treat for the senses.
The idea of singing every single line of dialogue seems ostensibly ridiculous, so how did Jacques Demy make it seem as if there was never any other way of performing a musical? And not just your standard whimsical, epic romance. The story of Guy and Genevieve reminds us of the unforgiving nature of circumstance in a world drenched with vibrant technicolor. Melancholy has rarely looked so beautiful.
An opening Count Basie style swing number sends us finger clicking into a beautifully shot, Technicolor-land of yellows, blues and greens. When a young elegant Catherine Deneuve glides onscreen to complete the other half of this handsome couple, the spell being cast upon us is in full effect.…
Soothing, mournful, and delightful exhilaration from the first frame to the last. Didn't know that The Umbrellas of Cherbourg was actually a non-stop musical, but after that initial jarring moment, I was completely on board. It's a typical story of romance and adolescent passion laid against the harsh realities of the world, but every blooming color, gentle glance and sudden burst of cinematic exuberance swept me into a snuggling ball of warmth.
Every performance, musical note, and display of filmmaking technique culminates in a truly stirring experience, and by the end, I was crying and contemplating and smiling and experiencing all kinds of feelings.
If every other Demy film is like this, then I don't think I'll be able to take it.
“I can’t live without him. I’ll die.” “Stop crying. Look at me. People only die of love in movies.”
The beauty of the classical Hollywood movie musical—a uniquely American art form if ever there were one—is its intrinsic artificiality. People simply do not express their innermost feelings in instantly composed song, nor do strangers break into perfectly choreographed spontaneous dance. But choosing such an unreal mode of expression permits the musical to give voice to profoundly real emotions often left unspoken, deepening their impact.
Of course, we Americans can only take these ersatz outbursts in limited doses. The French know no such inhibitions. If an isolated song can accentuate the emotional intensity of young lovers’ adulation or heartbreak, then surely…
I dislike musicals for the most part, but what I really hate are musicals that sing "pass the salt". That drives me batty. Musical numbers, you know, song and dance type of stuff ok if necessary, but singing dialogue? Ouch.
This was singing dialogue.
So you can imagine what the rest of the film was like for me to rate it so highly.
I thought Wong kar-wai owned reds and greens but boy he's got nothing on Jacques Demy's production designer. The colours are crazy, almost cartooney there for a while. In fact the first act is so bubblegum that you wonder if you should take it seriously but while you are making your decision something about it all comes…
Finally diving into Jacques Demy's filmography, which I've been eagerly looking forward to for a little over a year now.
The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is a wonderful musical. It's whimsical, romantic, and catchy, yet it stays very grounded in reality.
Demy's famous use of color—both in the background and on the characters' clothing—works beautifully, sometimes giving the audience more understanding of a character than any dialogue or acting does. The one scene that sticks out which does this is where the protagonist and her mother are arguing in their store, and they both stand in front of identical wallpapers, however there is a dark barrier formed by a hallway between the them. (Side note: this was something I now realize…
I have no ear for foreign accents so I couldn't tell if the dialogue was supposed to rhyme or if it was simply mundane words being sung for effect. After a while you don't really notice it, and it's very amusing way to make a musical, a novelty at least in my novice eyes. I thought the singing along with the accompanying music really heightened the emotion, again it's a really effective stylistic choice. Beyond the music, this is one of those tragic romances, along with the likes of Carol and In the Mood for the Love, that could simply be told in nothing but stolen glances and reflections, and for that, I adore it.
Surprisingly doused in realism for a candy colored French musical. The choice between compromise and happiness is a sobering one. This isn't Hollywood. It may feel like Singing in the Rain, but when life really gives you those dark rainy days, what you really need is The Umbrellas of Cherbourg.
Who says a movie where every line of dialogue is sung can be this sad and yet very powerful. This film did it for me. I was nearly in tears after watching this classic French New Wave musical/opera. This is one I'll definitely see multiple times just for that beautiful score, gorgeous costumes and incredible cinematography.
As joyous a film as everyone says that it is. Demy's ability to make a sung-through film feel natural yet cinematic and not theatrical may be its greatest achievement. At no point does the film seem to be reaching, or do you ask "why are they singing this?" the way that many other sung-through films can. This should be a lesson to those who have adapted sung-through stage shows yet stripped away the recitative: believe in a concept and you will succeed.
There is so much to love here just on a first watch: Catherine Deneuve's innocence, the not-perfect-but-inspired singing, the final shot of the gas station in the snow, the way Demy's camera glides across the action, the amazing…
Fuck you it's in french every word DESERVES to be sung
This might be one of my favorite films of all time and I just watched it for the first time.
All the films from all the editions, including those subsequently removed, presently totalling 1187. An easy way of seeing how…
Those below are not available on the site (from what I can tell).
24 Frames Per Century
Black Something (Zellners)…