The Umbrellas of Cherbourg
Directed by Jacques Demy
This simple romantic tragedy begins in 1957. Guy Foucher, a 20-year-old French auto mechanic, has fallen in love with 17-year-old Geneviève Emery, an employee in her widowed mother's chic but financially embattled umbrella shop. On the evening before Guy is to leave for a two-year tour of combat in Algeria, he and Geneviève make love. She becomes pregnant and must choose between waiting for Guy's return or accepting an offer of marriage from a wealthy diamond merchant.
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★★★½ review by brat pitt on Letterboxd
my aunt used to live in cherbourg ...
★★★★★ review by SilentDawn on Letterboxd
Soothing, mournful, and delightful exhilaration from the first frame to the last. Didn't know that The Umbrellas of Cherbourg was actually a non-stop musical, but after that initial jarring moment, I was completely on board. It's a typical story of romance and adolescent passion laid against the harsh realities of the world, but every blooming color, gentle glance and sudden burst of cinematic exuberance swept me into a snuggling ball of warmth.
Every performance, musical note, and display of filmmaking technique culminates in a truly stirring experience, and by the end, I was crying and contemplating and smiling and experiencing all kinds of feelings.
If every other Demy film is like this, then I don't think I'll be able to take it.
★★★★★ review by Sam Van Hallgren on Letterboxd
And you have a problem with Damien Chazelle ripping off Jacques Demy why exactly? Because this and Young Girls of Rochefort are two of the most deliriously perfect films ever made? I wish every director tried to steal from these films. A glut of Demy ripoffs? Bring it on.
★★★★★ review by josh lewis 🌹 on Letterboxd
“i would’ve died for him, so why aren’t i dead?”
★★★★★ review by Steven Sheehan on Letterboxd
The idea of singing every single line of dialogue seems ostensibly ridiculous, so how did Jacques Demy make it seem as if there was never any other way of performing a musical? And not just your standard whimsical, epic romance. The story of Guy and Genevieve reminds us of the unforgiving nature of circumstance in a world drenched with vibrant technicolor. Melancholy has rarely looked so beautiful.
An opening Count Basie style swing number sends us finger clicking into a beautifully shot, Technicolor-land of yellows, blues and greens. When a young elegant Catherine Deneuve glides onscreen to complete the other half of this handsome couple, the spell being cast upon us is in full effect. If the sentence 'Have you had dinner?' can be sung melodically without disturbing the musical flow, you know you're onto a good thing.
We hear the full sophistication of the French language in all its poetical prowess through Michel Legrand's songs. The extraordinary thing being that we get to know and love the characters just as well as any spoken dialogue would allow us to, nothing being lost by illustrating it in melodic form. Whereas a Hollywood musical would cast the heroes and villains in stark contrast to one another, neither Genevieve’s new suitor nor her mother is cast as being the one to ruin true love. The beauty of the script reflects the fact that life is indeed typically far more complicated than that.
Knowing where to begin the praise for the photography is an incredibly hard task. The production design and wardrobe are a match made in heaven particularly inside the home and shop of the mother and daughter. The colours leap off the screen to transform the port based town of Cherbourg into an pastel based delicatessen. The type of place Wes Anderson was surely inspired by. The type of place you know cannot be real but secretly hope that it may just exist after all.
Not only did Demy stay true to many of the popular tropes visible in Hollywood musicals of the time, he also managed to re-invent its approach both in style and subject matter. It feels somewhat slight to label the film a delight yet that is the perfect description. A feast for the eyes, pleasure for the ears and enchantment for the heart.
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