The Umbrellas of Cherbourg

Les parapluies de Cherbourg

dir. Jacques Demy

TIFF Cinematheque - Retrospective

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Catherine Deneuve became a star in Jacques Demy's enchanting and gorgeously stylized musical classic.

A work that belongs in the pantheon, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is a thrilling film, to be seen and savoured many times. Art-designed from stem to stern (watch the wallpaper!) , choreographed with MGM musicals in mind, and awash in Michel Legrand's stirring, melodic score (with every line of dialogue sung), Umbrellas is exuberant, enchanting, and unbearably poignant — but it is also dark, modern, death-haunted, and acute about both family and class relations. Catherine Deneuve plays the yearning Geneviève, who falls in love with handsome auto mechanic Guy (Nino Castelnuovo), to the despair of her ambitious, widowed mother (Anne Vernon). When Guy is drafted for service in the Algerian war (one of the film's many astute political points), the film turns into a rhapsody of absence, longing, and loss. "A masterpiece ... [Demy's] poetic exaltation of the ordinary, bursting with emotion, had its share of dark irony as well as respect ... For all the apparent sugar and spice of Legrand's memorable score and for all the candy-colored wallpaper, Demy's social observation in The Umbrellas of Cherbourg couldn't be more clear-eyed." (Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader).