The Umbrellas of Cherbourg

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg

1964. Directed by Jacques Demy.

Winner of the Palm d'Or at Cannes, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is an experimental musical love story whose focus is on the breathes in between, rather than the kiss itself.

Catherine Deneuve stars as Genvieve, the daughter of an Umbrella merchant who has fallen hard for Guy (played by Nico Castelnuovo). Soon she finds out she is with child and Guy is summoned away to the Algerian war. Can their love withstand these challenges? The answer is in song.

Demy chose to film this utterly human story as one, almost never ending song. There is no "dialogue" and it's one of the film's many, many pieces that makes it a classic. It was the film that would propel Deneuve into stardom and solidify Demy as of the most talented director's of the era.

The entire film is a visual whirlwind of sound and color. Jean Rabier's camera harnesses the emotional plight's of the leads, while still capturing the hardships and victories in the world around them, even if they themselves are lost (temporarily) in romantic bliss. Bernard Revein's production design is a formidable partner to the visuals. Every set, every costume, every prop brims with the spectrum of life. There's love and loss and hard choices, but there's also laughter, warmth, and even the specter of death.

The second part of Demy's "romantic" trilogy, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is the very definition of a high art concept. It's beauty plumbs not only your eyes and ears, but the core of your heart. Despite it's age, Umbrellas is a film that is instantly familiar, and that is the most important part. Demy chose to focus on a love story between two working class people and turn it into a operatic epic, defiantly declaring that it's the small, underappreciated things that we encounter everyday that are indeed, the most important.

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