XL Popcorn – The Umbrellas of Cherbourg

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 741/1007Title: Les Parapluies de Cherbourg (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg)
Director: Jacques Demy
Year: 1964
Country: France

And so I have now completed Jacques Demy’s loose romantic trilogy with the most acclaimed of the bunch… that is also technically the middle film. This is not a typical trilogy as there is no continuing story line, just recurring cast members and an overall similar feel. The one thread of continuity is the reappearance of the character of Roland Cassard from Lola, but that’s in the same ballpark as Jacques Tati playing Monsieur Hulot in a number of his films.

Where the final film in the trilogy was a traditional musical, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is more like an opera in that literally every piece of dialogue is sung. There’s a nice signposting of this in the beginning of the film with the two leads going to see Carmen on a date. The whole ‘singing everything in a film’ is a bit unnerving when you aren’t ready for it, but once I got into it I was SO in.

When you watch a film like this you cannot help but wonder how people can be so attractive. Not only is Guy (played by Nino Castelnuovo) an absolute stud-muffin, but then you have Catherine Deneuve. Then there is Catherine Deneuve. Not only is she absolutely stunning to look at (even if the line about her not wearing make-up is absolute crap), but she shows so much of her range as an actress in these 90 minutes. It’s little wonder that this is the film that launched her career outside of France.

The film itself really does flash by in an instant and by the time it ends you have been through a lot of emotions and seen a lot of choices. The ending itself really reminded me of how they ended La La Land – which makes sense as both films (and Les Demoiselles de Rochefort) share a lot stylistically.

Now, since this is a Jacques Demy musical with Catherine Deneuve as the star, it’s difficult to not make points of comparison between this and Les Demoiselles de Rochefort. They are both excellent films and true exemplars of the musical genre, but I think there are some places where they outperform each other.

For example, since every word is sung, I feel like there isn’t a single song in The Umbrellas of Cherbourg that can outdo ‘Chanson des Jumelles’ in terms of catchiness. Similarly there are no big song or dance sequences, which is something that I did miss considering all the visuals that could have been done using the props from the umbrella shop. On the other hand, the story line in The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is a better one and visually the use of the highly saturated colours works so well, and maybe a bit better than Les Demoiselles de Rochefort’s pastels.

Films like this and An Autumn Afternoon have really made me feel glad that I’ve decided to focus on the 1960s and 1970s for a bit. It’s helping me to re-evaluate these decades for the better… I just hope this feeling of goodwill won’t be premature.

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