Friday, October 26, 2012

417. Les Parapluies de Cherbourg/The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964)

Running Time: 91 minutes
Directed By: Jacques Demy
Written By: Jacques Demy
Main Cast: Catherine Deneuve, Nino Castelnuovo, Marc Michel, Anne Vernon, Ellen Farner
Click here to view the trailer


I was halfway through "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg" when one of the characters started to talk about a girl named Lola and I said to myself, "I wonder if this film is some sort of sequel to Demy's 1961 film Lola?" Well, it sort of is. But, thankfully it's referred to as an "informal trilogy" and the films do stand on their own merits, so it wasn't essential that they be watched in order. For the interested, there's also a third part to the trilogy called "The Young Girls of Rochefort" and all three films are in THE BOOK.

The actual plot of the film is as simple as it gets, but what makes "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg" stand out and what probably gained it entry into the pages of THE BOOK, is the fact that every bit of it's dialogue is sung. Deneuve is seventeen-year-old Genevieve Emery and she's head over heels in love with Guy (Castelnuovo), a twenty-year-old auto mechanic who has mutual feelings for Genevieve.  Genevieve's mother isn't pleased with the union and tells Genevieve that she's acting irrational when she hears her talking about marriage and children. However, this is that kind of "West Side Story" love where no one else's opinion matters but the two in love. The strength of their love makes it all the more difficult when Guy is summoned to attend his two year, mandatory military service. He promises to write and the two have a very emotional goodbye at the train station. The next segment of the film reveals that Genevieve is pregnant with Guy's child and that a family friend, Roland Cassard (Michel) has the hots for Genevieve and wants her hand in marriage. Scared that she'll be an all alone, single mother, Genevieve accepts Cassard's request and marries him, relying on his promise to raise the child as his own. This makes things all the more difficult and emotional during the third and final segment when Guy returns home.

Watching "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg" is literally like watching a bag of Skittles come to life and sing you song! I've rarely seen a more gorgeous film and the colors here are truly mesmerizing. The shots are crisp, the angles are perfect and even with the volume turned off, this is a stand out picture. In fact, it may even be better with the volume turned off, because to tell you the truth, the music kind of got on my nerves after a while. THE BOOK praises the incessant singing, while I condemn it for holding the movie back and I really could have done with a break in the music and some regular speaking from the characters. Is it possible that the French singing dialogue doesn't come across as well to an English speaking viewer? I mean, I couldn't really sing along with them, because they were singing in a different language and as the words came across the bottom of the screen, I couldn't sing them in my head and had no choice but to simply read them. Therefore, my inner voice was hearing spoken word, while my ears were hearing song and it all got a bit muddled and annoying. It was certainly a great idea and obviously people took to it in droves and I understand that this film's signature is the 100% singing dialogue, but I wasn't crazy about it. I guess I wouldn't be your first choice if you had an extra opera ticket.

The plot was insanely melodramatic and was as simple as pie. Girl falls in love with boy, he leaves, she falls in love with another in his absence, he returns...and beyond that there have been different variations of the climax over the years. I liked the ending here, as it didn't seem to sensationalized and more down to earth. What happens to these characters is what would probably happen to a real world couple who went through this same situation. Deneuve is gorgeous, innocent, pure and perfect as Genevieve and the rest of the cast is just as wonderful and what sports they are for signing on for a film that was entirely sung. Their pipes must have been burning before the the shooting was over and I can't even imagine how many flubbed lines there must've been.

RATING: 6.5/10  Can't go TOO high, but it wasn't bad and it was damn gorgeous to feast your eyes on, so there's that. I'll get to "Lola" and "The Young Girls of Rochefort" someday down the road, but this was currently streaming on YouTube and I wanted to watch it before it disappeared, as there's nowhere else to find it.


October 26, 2012  6:00pm

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