Another day, another review from my 2016 10 Classics list!
Yesterday I covered TOKYO STORY (1953), and today it's THE UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG (1964). It seems quite appropriate to write about UMBRELLAS today given that we're currently pumping rainwater out of our flooded backyard!
THE UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG, titled LES PARAPLUIES DE CHERBOURG in its native France, was one of my top favorites from my 2016 list. It was incredibly sumptuous, a feast for the eyes and ears. I really liked writer-director Jacques Demy's upbeat, fizzy THE YOUNG GIRLS OF ROCHEFORT (1967) when I saw it a few years ago, but I actually think I liked this more serious film even better.
The movie tells the story of young lovers, Genevieve (Catherine Deneuve) and Guy (Nino Castelnuevo), who are parted when Guy is drafted. They have a single night together before Guy leaves which results in pregnancy.
While Guy is away he doesn't write often, and Genevieve is courted by a kind and wealthy diamond merchant, Roland (Marc Michel); Roland, incidentally, was also in Demy's film LOLA (1961). Roland is so smitten with Genevieve that he wants to raise the child as his own, and she must make a huge life decision.
All of the film's visuals were stunning, from the candy-colored sets and costumes to star Catherine Deneuve -- even the Esso gas station at the end was gorgeous!
For those who may be unaware, there is no spoken dialogue; everything in this film is sung. It gives the film a fairly unique style, especially as some of Michel Legrand's score is quite beautiful. When I heard the film's main theme, "I Will Wait For You," it was like a blast from the past. I'm sure I must have heard that song on radios throughout my childhood, as it was so familiar. When the theme music swelled at the end it was incredibly powerful, partly because of the story context and also just a bit because it was like a distant, forgotten echo from my own past.
THE UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG has been in the news in recent weeks, as it's considered to be one of the main influences on the recent hit release LA LA LAND (2016). Funny thing, although there are parallels in the way the movies end, I found the ending of THE UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG much more satisfying, probably because I had gotten to know and like the supporting characters of Roland and Madeleine (Ellen Farner).
BROOKLYN (2015). Like UMBRELLAS, BROOKLYN was a visual treat with a similar theme, as a young woman must choose between a faraway love or the one close at hand.
THE UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG was filmed by Jean Rabier. The running time is 91 minutes. It was nominated for five Academy Awards.
THE UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG is available from the Criterion Collection on DVD and Blu-ray in The Essential Jacques Demy collection.
Criterion will release it as a single title on DVD or Blu-ray on April 11th, 2017, along with THE YOUNG GIRLS OF ROCHEFORT.
THE UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG is memorable movie experience which is highly recommended.