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…
7,0/10 (Jacques Demy, 1964) [France]
A film so beautiful and so truthful about human relationships and life itself that it becomes a deeply moving and unforgetable cinematic experience that movies made today don't seem to have.
"Maybe happiness makes me sad."
🎤life is a beautiful but cruel song🎤
Since singing could be called the purest form of expression it’s apt that Demy’s film revolves around a doomed romance, since not only is there nothing more universal than reminiscing over lovers that have slipped through our fingers, but what other instance begs to be sung about more? The film revels in the musical tropes that birthed it’s existence - the brightest of colours, a relationship punctured through circumstance - but proceeds to flip the universal happiness that comes with traditional musicals on it’s head, somehow giving us a somber drama that happens to be sung. Despite perhaps being a little gimmicky, Demy doesn’t forget to add directional flair to the film, often with layers upon layers protruding through frames…
It is not the acting, the music, or the script that make this movie worthy of five stars for me. While the story itself was beautiful, the music lovely, and the acting pretty solid they alone would probably have been three and a half/ four stars. What really makes this movie special is the cinematography (specifically the use of colours).
Every scene was so carefully thought out. The colours were bright, vivid, and entrancing without being overly painful to the eyes. Everything down to lighting and costumes was so deliberate yet remained seamless and unobtrusive. The beauty of this film comes from the fact that it tattoos the story on every aspect of production that you could remove one of your senses and still be able to understand and appreciate the film.
Based solely on the narrative, this is not an interesting film. However, the set design and art direction (as well as the music) are a delight. Moreover, the way the film ends is striking and makes the entire story worth it.
I can't believe I watched a musical and enjoyed it...
I don't give musicals 5 stars but wow. The color, the movement, the human drama presented in this film. Demy is undeniably a master
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