Sunday, January 22, 2017

Tonight's Movie: The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964)

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 Castelnuovo), 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).

It may be coincidence, but a farewell scene in UMBRELLAS also strongly called to mind a sequence in a recent film I loved, 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.


Blogger Blake Lucas said...

This movie has been with me most of my life and is one to which I feel very close and to which I am always glad to return. It was nice to see that you responded to it as you did.

If you have the Criterion Jacques Demy collection (glad to say I do, as a Christmas present from my wife a few years ago), I highly recommend that you go on with the other movies. You may not like any of the others quite this much--or even as much as THE YOUNG GIRLS OF ROCHEFORT--but you will want to see them. He was a very individual and profoundly appealing filmmaker and really stands for something in cinema.

I will especially encourage you to see his first movie LOLA. It's pretty special, and Roland is introduced at an earlier point in his life, where life is very different for him and where he is probably in some ways reflective of the young Demy. That said, neither Roland nor title character played by Anouk Aimee is in the movie's most magical--indeed sublime--sequence which I won't elaborate on here, but will just leave for your discovery.

5:33 PM  
Blogger Brittaney said...

I have heard many good things about this film over the years but it has never interested me. Thanks to your review that has changed and I will add it to my movie list. Thanks.

6:36 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thank you, Blake, I loved your comments on this film. I do happily have the big Demy set, thanks to a good sale. My dad joins you in recommending experiencing all the films in the set. I'm quite curious about LOLA!

Brittaney, thank you for letting me know that -- it's very special to me when others try something I've recommended. I hope you will find it as enriching an experience as I did.

Best wishes,

11:58 PM  

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