Words: Brody Rossiter
J’ADORE MON AMOUR?
Umbrellas of Cherbourg (Les Parapluies de Cherbourg) first received its theatrical release in 1964, courting over one million cinema admissions in France alone. Fifty years later the film has received a special 50th anniversary restoration release – but has this colourful French gem truly stood the test of time?
Half a century later it is still difficult to find fault with Umbrellas of Cherbourg‘s vibrant and eclectic aesthetic. Obviously top-notch film and colour restoration is what you would expect of this digitization – produced by Cine-Tamaris with the support of the Cannes Film Festival – but it is director Jacques Demy’s effortless camerawork and picturesque choice of seaside locales which provided a beautiful canvas long before fresh 21st century pots of pink, green, purple, and blue paint were lovingly brushed around.
Catherine Deneuve stars as seventeen-year-old Genevieve, the daughter of an umbrella shop owner who falls pregnant by her handsome mechanic boyfriend, Guy (Nino Castelnuovo). Both are deeply in love with one another, but when Guy is drafted by The French Army to fight in Algeria, and Genevieve is encouraged to entertain the advances of a suave jeweller, their once unbreakable relationship slowly begins to tarnish and fall victim to time.
Umbrellas of Cherbourg openly pays homage to the classical Hollywood musical whilst possessing a decidedly un-Hollywood plot. Every line of dialogue is sung as opposed to spoken – from declarations of infatuation to an abrupt request for “smokes”. Scenes shuffle along at a sprightly pace, and before you know it years have passed and personalities have been irreversibly changed. Yet despite the saccharine, over-saturated palette the film employs, it ultimately presents a surprisingly melancholic story in which to lose yourself for ninety minutes. For modern-audiences, the constant melodies of dialogue can begin to feel like a battle of attrition as opposed to wistful romanticism, but the excess of charm and deep characterisation ensure you stay the course.
Endlessly attractive, still unique within its genre, and loaded with bonus features, this 50th anniversary edition of a timeless French classic doesn’t disappoint, reinvigorating Jacques Demy’s striking vision of a lost love for hopefully another fifty years.