The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964)

In Film on December 10, 2005 at 10:05 am


Les Parapluies de Cherbourg (1964)
An absolutely lovely and eye-candy French musical by Jacques Demy. Music by Michel Legrand and starring the very young Catherine Deneuve. My god she’s so classically beautiful and full of graceful, innocent, youthful charm. Her perfect doll-like golden curls, pink overcoat, rosy cardigan, peach one piece dresses clothes, golden clutch, pastel purple poncho…it’s every vintage girl’s fantasy comes true. The entire movie is just the perfect romantic vintage-fashioned French dream. Everything is so stylized with very fashionable color palette: the wallpaper, the cute little teapot set, furnitures, little boutiques, miniature planes, umbrellas…etc. It could very well be called ‘Anthropologie: the movie.’ ^^;;

As for the story…well doesn’t really matter. ^^;; Middle class girl fell in love with handsome but poor boy. Mom opposed their marriage hoping for better prospect for girl. Boy got drafted to war. Girl found out she’s pregnant after he left. Fragile young lovers couldn’t bear long distance relationships. Out of desperation girl gave in and married a rich successful man who’s willing to raise her child. The clueless boy came back few years later heartbroken. Boy descend to depression. Boy rebuilt his life with the help of a female friend. Boy married the friend. Then one night the girl and boy met by chance …(no Hollywood ending).

What made it an experimental musical was that ALL (I mean really, ALL) dialogues are sung in songs. So unlike usual musical the actors do not suddenly break into songs in the middle of their lines. And the song lyrics are not ‘lyrics-ish’ but in everyday conversations. Actors won’t break into choreograph dances; they just acted normal. This treatment completely convinced me of the saying that ‘French is a very musical language’.


The opening title sequence is quite nice: view from the top looking at pedestrians carrying umbrellas (in various bright shades and patterns) on a rainy day. Very graphic design feel! The music by Michel Legrand is his usual sappy and soupy style with the always lovely and romantic French flair. The theme song is catchy. Of course Catherine Deneuve didn’t sing her part (she can’t hit note at all according to her later pop albums). Though when it’s the interaction between mom and daughter (female + female) the high-pitch, shrilly and airy vocals got a bit ear-piercing (constant high frequency ^^;;).

  1. I also discovered this one about e decade or so back, when it was restored and redistributed. It’s still at the very top of my list of favorites. Though many feels Demy’s follow-up, The Young Girls of Rochefort, is far inferior, I disagree; It’s certainly not as good as Cherbourg, but is still highly recommended for fans.

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