Friday, September 06, 2013

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg

Written and directed by Jacques Demy, Les Parapluies de Cherbourg (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg) is a musical-drama about a pregnant young woman who has to deal with a new life when her lover is away at war. With the dialogue sung, the film is a look into a young woman trying to deal with the new changes in her life. Starring Catherine Deneuve and Nino Castelnuovo. Les Parapluies de Cherbourg is an evocative yet enchanting film from Jacques Demy.

The film explores the life of a young couple in Genevieve (Catherine Denueve) and Guy as they’re two young lovers living in the small town of Cherbourg as she works for her mother (Anne Vernon) at an umbrella shop while he is a mechanic who lives with his ailing aunt Elise (Mireille Perrey). When Guy is reported to join the military for Algerian War, the couple part ways as Genevieve tries to figure out what to do as to whether wait for Guy to return or to marry this charming young jeweler named Roland (Marc Michel). It’s a film that is about fates and the choices that people have to make in their life as it also explores ones that are uneasy. Even as both Genevieve and Guy have to deal the choices in their lives.

Jacques Demy’s script does have a traditional structure while the film is set from the late 1950s to the early 1960s. The first act is about Guy and Genevieve’s love affair that is quite lively though Genevieve’s mother disproves of the relationship until she meets Roland. The second act is about Genevieve living all alone with her mother as she waits for word on Guy while starting a relationship with Roland as she is also pregnant with Guy’s child. The third act is about Guy’s return to Cherbourg two years after his service as he deals with loss and changing times while wanting to figure out what to do with his life. Part of what helps the story play into the drama is the dialogue that helps carry the story where Demy plays into the dramatic stakes while adding bits of humor in the dialogue. It would all play to the fates of Genevieve and Guy and what would happen throughout the story.

Demy’s direction is very entrancing in not just the scope of the film but also in the way the scenes play into the romance and drama that occurs in the film. Since it’s a musical, most of the dialogue is sung for the film as it helps tell the story while Demy uses a lot of gazing long-shots to play into the emotions of the song that is happening. Some of which is lively and full of joy while some of it is also quite melancholic as it plays to Genevieve’s longing for Guy. Demy also uses some close-ups while knowing how to frame the actors in those close-ups against the background. The direction also has moments where there’s something happening in the background which contrasts to what is really happening in the scene that plays to Genevieve’s loss of her youth.

Many of the dramatic moments of the film is more loose as there’s no dance numbers where the actors are more concerned with just singing the song and trying to showcase the emotions of what is happening in the film. Notably in the third act in Guy’s return as he arrives at Cherbourg realizing that things have changed and he is ravaged by not just war but the loss that he’s facing. Still, Demy provides a lot of moments where Guy can find a way to move on the form of Madeleine (Ellen Farner) who had been taking care of his aunt. It’s a part of the third act where Guy can find a live without Madeleine but knows that he’ll never get over her. Overall, Demy creates a very tender yet majestic musical about love and youth.

Cinematographer Jean Rabier does amazing work with the film‘s lush cinematography that is filled with vibrant colors and many shots to play out the beauty of the location as well as some of the melancholia that is prevalent in the film. Editors Anne-Marie Cotret and Monique Teisseire do excellent work with the editing as it‘s mostly straightforward to play to the rhythm of the song as well as a few montages and fade-outs to help play out the sense of changes that is happening. Production designer Bernard Evein does fantastic work with the set pieces from the look of the umbrella shop to some of the places in the town of Cherbourg to showcase a world that is lively in the late 50s to something more quiet later on.

Costume designer Jacqueline Moreau does a brilliant job with the costumes as it plays to the film‘s vibrant color schemes as well as the tone of the story to complement the mood of the characters. The sound work of Francois Musy is terrific for its low-key sound as well as creating a natural mix for the singing in the film. The film’s music by Michel Legrand is incredible as it’s this nice mix of lush orchestral music for the ballads along with a few jazz pieces and upbeat stuff to play along to the dialogue that is sung in the film.

The film’s marvelous cast includes some notable small performances from Jean Champion as Guy’s old boss Aubin and Mireille Perrey as Guy’s very maternal Aunt Elise. Marc Michel is terrific as the very charming Roland Cassard while Ellen Farner is wonderful as Aunt Elise’s longtime caretaker Madeleine who always had feelings for Guy. Anne Vernon is amazing as Genevieve’s mother as a woman who wants the best for her daughter while dealing with some of the chaos in her daughter’s life. Nino Castelnuovo is excellent as Guy as a young man who wants to give Genevieve a nice life only to be forced to join the army to fight the Algerian war where he returns a lost man trying to find some meaning in his life. Finally, there’s Catherine Deneuve in a radiant performance as Genevieve as Deneuve brings a very sensitive yet enchanting performance as a young woman whose life is changed by war as she faces an uncertain future but also one that is offered that can help her as it’s one of Deneuve’s great performances.

Les Parapluies de Cherbourg is a remarkable film from Jacques Demy that features an incredible performance from Catherine Deneuve. The film isn’t just one of the great films of the French New Wave but also a musical that is truly original as well as exciting to showcase a world of loss and hope. It’s also a film that plays into the hopes of youth and the realism they face as adults as it’s told with such style. In the end, Les Parapluies de Cherbourg is a magnificent film from Jacques Demy.

Jacques Demy Films: (Lola (1961 film)) - Bay of Angels - The Young Girls of Rochefort - Model Shop - Donkey Skin - (The Pied Piper (1972 film)) - A Slightly Pregnant Man - (Lady Oscar) - (La Naissance du Jour) - Une chambre en ville - (Parking (1985 film)) - (Three Places for the 26th) - (Turning Table)

© thevoid99 2013

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