This is what happens when your car breaks down on a Sunday morning and you have nothing else to do…
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…
The Umbrellas of Cherbourg may not be the most creative or original story told in all of cinema, in fact, quite from it , but its raw passion, vibrant energy, and symphonic fervor make Demy's most critically-acclaimed film his most moving.
At first, we're taken aback by its silliness – the first shot is of a small town in France where the protagonist, a stout garage mechanic named Guy, speaks only in tune and lyrics. I was very skeptical at first. "I can't watch an entire movie where the actors sing all of their lines! I'm going to hate it!" But I was surprised how quickly I accepted its gimmick; by the second act, I forgot the film was even…
"A film for all the young lovers of the world"
that KILLS me! damn!!!
I wish I could give this more stars. the only one goes for the umbrellas and Catherine's massive hair! I seriously hate musicals, especially in movies, and in this one they do not speak one single word. Not ONE word! They kind of sing it all. Too much color and too much singing ruins it. The last two minutes made me cry, for the rest I was wishing it would end.
-sings while crying-
This movie took my heart, inflated it to ten times it's original size, threw it up in the air, and then shot it with a shotgun. I loved it.
(If you're going to make a film a musical, this is the goddamn way to do it! Instead of boring song montages that are largely irrelevant to the plot, ingrain the song into the story.)
-weeps in the snow outside Guy's automobile station-
I almost gave this 4 1/2 stars and then I realized I didn't want to act like a pretentious twat. It's stunning, beautiful, sad, romantic, and most of all it's true. This was my first time watching and I know not the last. The music will stay with me.
It's got everything.
Totally reminiscent of a time that no longer exists. It's as if this type of story has become an old lover that we've been forced to move on from.
Catherine Deneuve and Nino Castelnuovo make for maybe the best looking onscreen couple I've ever seen (rivaled only by Monica Vitti and Alain Delon in L'Eclisse).
The cinematography and the colors are gorgeous but those close ups are burned into my head, particularly the one of Deneuve saying "You are my king."
Ahh, musicals. They delight, enchant, and astound you with their unique emotional powers. I have seen many musicals including Singin' in the Rain and Mary Poppins, but nothing as emotionally powerful and beautiful as The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. This film had me in tears by the ending.
The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is a magical film. A film that uplifts your soul, and at the same time takes you into a world of heartbreak and sorrow. You really feel, along with Catherine Deneuve's character, when she doesn't receive letters from her lover, Guy, who is away at the army. Your heart breaks along with hers.
Some people may be put off by this film, simply because all the dialogue is singing.…
I don't speak a lick of French. I'm not a fan of operas. I'm a hopeless romantic. I am not from this time period. I don't sell umbrellas. I don't sing my conversations. Why did I watch this?
It's a film with every single line of dialogue sung in French, not a single word was spoken. Which impresses me, because the amount of blocking each scene had without turning into a full blown musical dance number (which was what I expected) all in a seemingly single shot was astounding. Seriously, it was simply put...sublime. Every scene felt dramatic, if not sometimes just a bit shmaltzy at times, all because of the lyrics that were being sung. It didn't even feel…
"Simple romantic tragedy," says Letterboxd.
Me: Oh! It's a musical. Ooooooh look at the colours! Oh my god,they're going to sing the whole thing?!
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