The Umbrellas of Cherbourg
(Les Parapluies de Cherbourg) (1964)
Directed by Jacques Demy

Artistic & Entertainment Value
* * * * *

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Jacques Demy's sad and bewitching The Umbrellas of Cherbourg relates the story of the love of Genevieve and Guy (Catherine Deneuve and Nino Castelnuovo) from its giddy heights to its wistful aftermath.

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is consistently delightful, both visually and aurally. By presenting the viewer with a delicious, colorful world in which every line of dialogue is sung, Demy has crafted a genuinely unique and absolutely enchanting movie.

The beginning of The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, which depicts the flowering of Genevieve and Guy's passion, evokes feelings of euphoric love with its bright music and charming sets awash in vibrant pastels. In fact, every aspect of the movie's first act, from the acting to the music to the luminous colors, conveys the absolute delight of being in love. The film intoxicates the viewer, arousing in him a nearly rapturous enchantment.

When, however, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg moves away from this blissful world, pulling Genevieve and Guy apart, the various joyous elements of the first part of the film come to contrast with the sorrowful aspects of the latter parts. The bright and happy songs of the beginning of the movie become profoundly sad, and even the pastels slowly fade away into the tones of the world in which we live. The sense of sorrow that eventually dominates the film, and with which the viewer is left when it is finished, is intensified by those very elements that had earlier been so effective in evoking happiness. The sadness of love's end is made as affecting as it is only because the joy that preceded that end was so intense. By emphasizing just this point, Jacques Demy has succeeded in creating a deeply melancholy film.

Lastly, I should note that while the movie's music is not memorable for its innate beauty, it is, nonetheless, enjoyable and intrinsic to the distinctive quality of the film. It adds to the joy of the movie's beginning, evoking the ecstatic love Genevieve and Guy share, and it heightens the later unhappiness, bringing out their sadness and nostalgia.

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is such a charming, beautiful, unique, and sorrowful film that watching it is a truly marvelous experience.

Review by Keith Allen

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