Demy Monde: Umbrellas of Cherbourg

(Les parapluies de Cherbourg)
(France, 1964, 91 mins, DCP)
In French with French subtitles
CAST Catherine Deneuve, Nino Castelnuovo, Anne Vernon, Marc Michel
Classification: PG


Geneviève Emery (Catherine Deneuve), whose mother runs an umbrella store, is in love with Guy Foucher (Nino Castelnuovo). Mrs. Emery does not approve of her daughter’s romance with the young mechanic. Guy is drafted into the army, and Geneviève gives herself to him the night before he departs for the Algerian War. Now she’s pregnant, and Guy’s letters have become less frequent. Her mother insists that she must move on - but the past is not easily forgotten.

It was only with his third film that Demy realised his dream of an all-sung musical, and it is on The Umbrellas of Cherbourg and its sister film, The Young Girls of Rochefort, that his international reputation was established – and on which it still stands.

Lusciously scored by Michel Legrand, and whole-heartedly embracing an effervescent pastel palette (he repainted interiors and entire streets according to his colour design), these irresistible confections pour the elation and exuberance of the Hollywood musical into quotidien settings and arrive at an emotional pitch which is pure and direct. At his best Demy was nothing short of sublime.

"Surely one of the most romantic films ever made." AO Scott, New York Times

"With this most rapturous of melodramas Demy incorporates song and dance in the service not of escape but of realism. The effect is as riveting as it is profoundly moving." Joshua Klein, 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die