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THE UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG
1964 - Jacques Demy
France
26
Opening Shot

The film begins with a lovely title sequence: an iris-in shot of a port, the camera pans and looks down below as rain begins to fall on those walking by (each of whom has a bright-colored umbrella). This along with Michel Legrand's beautiful music quickly establish the glorious sense of feeling that remains throughout this entire film.

The Film

I love this film! It's so alive, fresh, and colorful. Umbrellas of Cherbourg is a film daring enough to be unique and creative, while always remaining refreshing. The entire dialogue is sung (every single word!). At first this comes across bizarre, but it isn't long before the viewer gets sucked into it's colorful and surreal world that many can relate to. Umbrellas of Cherbourg's visual look is incredible. Every shot and detail is filled with boldly rich colors; there are no dark tones or grays anywhere to be found in the film. Bright pinks, oranges, greens, etc generate a hypnotizing experience unlike any other film. The story is simply told in three parts (Departure, Absence, Return), but has a symbolic, complex, and dark meaning underneath it's colorful surface. It's an artistic understanding of romanticism and realism. Michael Legrand's score is tremendous. Despite the limited themes, it never seems repetitive and follows perfectly along side the dialogue. Not to go without mentioning is the stunning presence of Catherine Deneuve. She possesses charisma, charm, range, and certainly beauty. The ending is both sad and joyous in conveying the films overall theme that love can't guide you through life, but it can give it a purpose, even just as a memory. A simple but poetic message that can relate to anyone.

The Filmmaker

The French New Wave Movement is very often divided into two unique groups. The most common is the "Cahiers group", which were the critics turned filmmakers who emerged from the cahiers du cinema (this included Jean-Luc Godard, Francois Truffaut, Claude Chabrol, Eric Rohmer, among others). The other group was referred to as the "Left Bank", this included those who were already filmmakers (Agnes Varda, Alain Resnais, Chris Marker, etc). Then of course there were a couple filmmakers that could be considered outside both groups. This included Louis Malle and Jacques Demy, who is the husband of Agnes Varda. While he may not be categorized in a particular New Wave group, Demy certainly is one of the movements most original artists who absolutely had a signature 'auteur' style with every film he made. Demy began making short films in the late 1950s (as the New Wave emerged). His first feature, 1961's Lola, was made as an homage to the great filmmaker Max Ophuls. The film earned Demy instant praise and he was next offered to direct a segment of The Seven Deadly Sins with several other French filmmakers (including Godard and Roger Vadim). Demy would reach the peak of his visionary talent with the 1964 masterpiece Umbrellas of Cherbourg. The film is entirely sung and includes some of the most expressive use of colors and music in the history of film. Umbrellas of Cherbourg takes the simplest romantic premise and makes it breathtakingly beautiful and heartbreakingly sad. It is one of the very greatest films ever made and certainly a personal favorite to me. Demy wasn't done with the musicals, as he followed up Umbrellas of Cherbourg with the nearly as brilliant The Young Girls of Rochefort (which also included Michel Legrand's score and again starred the radiant Catherine Deneuve). The film was not entirely sung, but it may be more experimental and certainly more representative of a Hollywood musical-comedy (blended with poetic romance of early French cinema). Legrand's score is sensational and in many ways the film is the most definitive film of Demy's approach, which blends dreams and reality together to create a visionary cinematic world. This is the quintessential gift of Demy and ultimately his films are so full of energy, hope, and poetry that they become inspiring and transcendent experiences.

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