Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (Les Parapluies de Cherbourg)

Staring: Catherine Deneuve, Nino Castelnuovo
Director: Jacques Demy
Writer: Jacques Demy


The plot of the film follows Geneviève (Catherine Deneuve) who, with her mother, sells umbrellas in the town of Cherbourg. Geneviève is in love with Guy (Nino Castelnuovo). Guy lives with his godmother and her care-giver, Madeleine (Ellen Farner). Geneviève and her mother are desperate for money. Geneviève becomes pregnant with Guy’s child before he is shipped off to fight in the Algerian War. When gone, Geneviève’s mother convinces her to marry Roland Cassard (Marc Michel), a jeweler.

Once Guy returns, years later, everything in Cherbourg is changed for him. His former life is no longer what he looks forward to, due to the loss of Geneviève. He spends all night out at sleazy bars, and sleeps with a prostitute named “Jenny”, who turns out to really be called Geneviève. That same evening Guy’s godmother dies.

The film’s final sequence is set 3 or 4 years later, with Guy finally running the gas station he always wanted to and married to Madeleine, who they have a child with named François. This last sequence is amazingly shot, and can barely be described by me as to the number of symbolic moments which occur here. Frankly any way I put it would probably destroy the film’s ending, so I’ll leave it there. I can only describe it as both a happy, and sad ending.


While I am certainly not fluent in French, this 1964 French language gem certainly didn’t lose much in translation. Initially I was hesitant to watch the film, and only stumbled across this by accident when watching Turner Classic Movies. After watching three silent movies in a row, I figured I may as well throw in the towel and give it a shot. Figuring this as Valentine’s Day, I thought that this film would be a perfect choice for a review today.

From Robert Osborne’s introduction, I found that the film was the first French musical ever in color. Also, another trivia point was that all the dialogue in the film was sung. I don’t mean in all the songs like in most musicals, but everything. From the singing between characters to the mailman dropping off the mail, everyone sings. Certainly a feat just based on that, especially since they successfully pull it off.

The film won the Grand Prix ("Grand Prize") at the 1964 Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1964, and was also nominated for Oscars in "Best Original Score", "Best Scoring", and "Best Song" (for "I Will Wait For You"). The younger readers here would recognize the song from the episode of Futurama where Fry’s dog waits outside the pizzeria.

Verdict: *****/*****


Ketchup said...

Chris! I was googling your name out of boredom and found this. Good site, good reviews. BTW, this is Matt Heinz. I was in troop 1145 with you. I was a new scout when you were an older scout. Now, I'm SPL. How times change, eh? Just saying hi, and maybe you'll come to Prince of Peace sometime! SKI TRIP is tomorrow!

Chris said...

Hope the ski trip was fun. SPL? Good job!