THE UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG [1964/2013] [50th Anniversary Edition] [Blu-ray] Fresh and Unpretentious Elegance! Now Beautifully Restored in Breathtaking Colour!
Described by director Jacques Demy as “a film in song,” the visually intoxicating ‘The Umbrellas of Cherbourg’ pays homage to the Hollywood musical in this masterpiece of French New Wave cinema.
Guy Foucher [Nino Castelnuovo], a 20-year-old French auto mechanic, has fallen in love with 17-year-old Geneviève Emery [Catherine Deneuve] of ‘Belle de Jour,’ an employee in her widowed mother's chic but financially embattled umbrella shop. On the evening before Guy is to leave for a two-year tour of combat in Algeria, the pair share a passionate night. Geneviève Emery becomes pregnant and then must choose between waiting for Guy Foucher's return or accepting an attractive offer of marriage from a wealthy diamond merchant Roland Cassard [Marc Michel].
FILM FACT: Awards and Nomination: 1963 Prix Louis-Delluc: Win: Best Film. 1964 Cannes Film Festival: Win: Palme d'Or. 1965 French Syndicate of Film Critics: Win: Best Film. 1965 37th Academy Awards®: Nominated: Best Foreign Language Film. 1966 38th Academy Awards®: Nominated: Best Original Screenplay for Jacques Demy. Nominated: Best Original Song "I Will Wait for You" for music by Michel Legrand. Nominated: "I Will Wait for You" for lyrics by Jacques Demy. Nominated: Best Adaptation or Treatment Score for Michel Legrand. The actors' voices were dubbed for the songs in The Umbrellas of Cherbourg: Danielle Licari: Geneviève Emery; José Bartel: Guy Foucher; Christiane Legrand: Madame Emery; Georges Blaness: Roland Cassard; Claudine Meunier: Madeleine and Claire Leclerc: Aunt Élise.
Cast: Catherine Deneuve, Nino Castelnuovo, Anne Vernon, Marc Michel, Ellen Farner, Mireille Perrey, Jean Champion, Pierre Caden, Jean-Pierre Dorat, Bernard Fradet, Michel Benoist, Philippe Dumat, Dorothée Blanck, Jane Carat, Harald Wolff, Danielle Licari (singing voice), José Bartel (singing voice), Christiane Legrand (singing voice), Georges Blaness (singing voice), Claudine Meunier (singing voice), Claire Leclerc (singing voice), Jacques Camelinat (uncredited), François Charet (uncredited), Jean-Pierre Chizat (uncredited), Jacques Demy (singing voice) Bernard Garnier (uncredited), Gisèle Grandpré (uncredited), Hervé Legrand (uncredited), Michel Legrand (singing voice) (uncredited), Roger Perrinoz (uncredited) and Rosalie Varda (uncredited)
Director: Jacques Demy [1931–1990]
Producers: Gilbert de Goldschmidt (uncredited), Mag Bodard and Pierre Lazareff (uncredited)
Screenplay: Jacques Demy (scenario and dialogue)
Composer: Michel Legrand
Cinematography: Jean Rabier
Production Set Design: Bernard Evein
Video Resolution: 1080p
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: French: 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and French: 2.0 LPCM Stereo Audio
Running Time: 93 minutes
Region: Region B/2
Number of discs: 1
Andrew’s Blu-ray Review: French New Wave auteur Jacques Demy described his 1964 film ‘Les Parapluies de Cherbourg’ [‘The Umbrellas of Cherbourg’] as a “film in music.” That is perhaps the best, most succinct way of putting it. Less a musical than a filmic opera, the dazzling pop-art in motion sings every piece of dialogue while telling its story of young love, dashed hopes, and the bitterness of thwarted dreams brought on by the class divisions of the bourgeoisie. While it may at first seem like a saccharine dreamscape in line with the sugar-coated musicals of Hollywood, one quickly realizes that ‘The Umbrellas of Cherbourg’ shares much less in common with its American cousins, choosing to highlight the everyday lives of mostly ordinary people and steering clear of any elaborate dance routines.
The story is straightforward; 20-year old mechanic Guy Foucher [Nino Castelnuovo] falls in love with 17-year-old Geneviève Emery [Catherine Deneuve] who works in her mother’s fashionable but financially struggling umbrella shop. The two star-crossed lovers make big plans for the future, hoping to be together forever, but when Guy Foucher is called up to the army to fight abroad in Algeria for two years, it puts a strain on the young couple. They make love for the first time before Guy Foucher leaves town and Geneviève Emery becomes pregnant. Distraught, she finally tells her mother, who begins to match-make and finds a suitor for her daughter in the wealthy young diamond merchant Roland Cassard [Marc Michel]. Roland Cassard is smitten with the young beauty and willing to marry her even if she’s pregnant with another man’s child. Now Geneviève must make a decision, wait for Guy Foucher to come back to her or not or marry the wealthy Roland and gain respectability.
Composer Michel Legrand composed the score that is modelled on normal conversation, no fancy rhymes or funny rhythms here. With this musical dialogue, the film glides by, in three parts, against a colourful backdrop of shimmering primary colours, soft pastels, and floral wallpapers with costumes that coordinate with the beautiful production set designs by Bernard Evein.
Combine with this free-roaming technique, with the use of unseen wheeled platforms to glide characters across the frame and you have a film that feels like we're witnessing a fairy-tale unravel. Whereas most musicals succumb to predictable levity and an obnoxiously jubilant disposition, time and space is orchestrated through the music employed in Demy Jacques's ill-fated love story and we find ourselves occupying an artificial world composed of oscillating scales and time signatures. However, behind the candy-coloured sets, warbled dialogue and the camera's pastoral filter, the posture and poise of the actors is remarkably naturalistic. Both Geneviève Emery and Guy Foucher are faced with a very real and fairly common dilemma and to fight for their love against adversity or settle for life's ballet of despondency. When this tragedy of young love has ended, one realises that it is a film of such romantic beauty and truth, of old styles and new coming together for something so different, that it really could only have been born out of the experimentation of the nouvelle vague.
Despite the film's incredibly cinematic veneer, Geneviève Emery and Guy Foucher take the practical option and burden this fanciful narrative with the quandaries of contemporary life. We're forced to question whether there is such a thing as true love, or is it merely a construct formed by society. This cynical philosophy ties in nicely with the ubiquitous feelings of national compunction linked to the unpopularity of the Algerian War and a sentiment that feels pertinent to today's despondent generation. Jacques Demy wonderfully captures the ecstasy and infatuation that accompany young love before building to a truly heart-breaking crescendo. ‘The Umbrellas of Cherbourg’ is an elegant portrait of young love that swings like a metronome from ecstasy to sorrow.
This mature look at first love, without judging the young protagonists, is a welcome change to the portrayal that it’s the be all and end all, and even though the end is truly powerful, it is not sappy or overblown in the slightest. Even though every actor is singing their lines, they are all more than capable of having subtle nuisances that soon make the singing seem as natural as anything else. The jauntiness to the lines adds to the pacing, before building up to slower and more dramatic recitations later on. The gorgeous use of colour really explodes here, and once again solidifies the classical Hollywood feel that Jacques Demy was no doubt trying to recreate. It’s something a little bit more than real, and yet the themes, situations and outcomes are heavily based in reality.
Now this scenario may sound familiar enough when you compare Umbrellas structure with the conventional Hollywood romance, musical or otherwise, but it is the ending that makes the film special. Convention would dictate that the ending would see Geneviève Emery and Guy Foucher inevitably end up together again, no matter how implausible that may seem. What Jacques Demy does instead, whether it is through coincidence and chance, those two staple themes of his oeuvre, or fate and destiny, is make sure that the couple are no longer together? He does not cop out and give the audience that happy ending they are all expecting but instead has the couple meet in a chance encounter at Guy Foucher’s petrol [gas] station five years down the line. We quickly learn that both of them have moved on and that both are happy with their current situation. This gives the film a more moving finale. It is closer to the realities of life than anything that is thrown up in a conventional musical. Ultimately, we are left in agreement with Geneviève’s mother Madame Emery [Anne Vernon] when she says: “Time heals many things,” and I concur that 100%.
For some, no amount of praise is going to convince them to digest a film entirely delivered in song, and there’s nothing wrong with that. You will certainly have to be in an accepting mood to truly become entranced by the whimsy before being torn apart by the bittersweet scenarios. But for those who want to see a meticulously crafted film that isn’t afraid to be both fantastical and down to earth, then you can’t do much better than ‘The Umbrellas of Cherbourg.’ Also a visual knockout is the film's wall-to-wall colour scheme, which presents a world where almost everything has taken on the most wonderful pastel hues. Among the things that are so coloured are the characters' clothes, the walls and furnishings of their apartments, even the very umbrellas that come out frequently in this very rainy town. ‘The Umbrellas of Cherbourg’ is a gem of a film, that reinvented the genre much like ‘Moulin Rouge’ and ‘Dancer in the Dark’ have done more recently. Catherine Deneuve and Nino Castelnuovo are totally adorable, the score carries the film along in a delicious dreamy torrent of music, and of course, the colours are mesmerising. It’s easy to see why The Guardian put the film as the Number 14 in the Best Romantic Film of All Time’. It is ravishing to the eye and heart.
Blu-ray Video Quality – This beautiful 1080p encoded image quality arrives on Blu-ray from STUDIOCANAL and is taken from the 2013 restoration of ‘The Umbrellas of Cherbourg’ done by DIGimage, with colour coding supervised by Mathieu Demy. The restoration was done in 2K from a 2K scan of the interpositive black-and-white trichrome, which is a three black and white strips representing Red, Green, and Blue, respectively. This allows for much more targeted colour coding and tweaking than restoring from the original negative. The end result, while ever so slightly leaning towards a bit of heightened graininess, is breath-taking nonetheless. The colours really leap from the screen and there are plenty of details and textures remaining in the image with lots of brightness and contrast as well. Please Note: Playback Region B/2: This will not play on most Blu-ray players sold in North America, Central America, South America, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Southeast Asia. Learn more about Blu-ray region specifications.
Blu-ray Audio Quality – The sound restoration for ‘The Umbrellas for Cherbourg’ was carried out using the original 1963 mono mix, the 1992 Dolby SR optical negative, and the 1992 digital multitrack tapes. In fact, it is a recording of the score intended for release to stereo LP that was used, according to the restoration featurette here, that allowed for the audio to be “Spatialized Audio.” The audio, especially the music and some sound effects, does have a good sense of stereo imaging; however the surround atmospherics are very mild, almost non-existent and unnoticeable on the French 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. That does not take away from its enjoyment however, and it is a notch above the French LPCM 2.0 Stereo Audio track, only due to the dialogue being better anchored to the centre and a bit fuller. “Spatialized Audio” is sound processed to give the listener the impression of a sound source within a three-dimensional environment. This is a more realistic experience when listening to recorded sound rather than via stereo. Because stereo only varies across one axis, usually the X, meaning the horizontal axis.
Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:
Special Feature: Virginie Ledoyen on ‘The Umbrellas of Cherbourg’ [1080i] [1.78:1] [3:11] With this personal intimate short video interview, actress Virginie Ledoyen [‘In All Innocence’ and ‘Farewell, My Queen’] discusses ‘The Umbrellas of Cherbourg’ and explains how the film has influenced her. [French with English subtitles].
Special Feature: Geoff Andrew on ‘The Umbrellas of Cherbourg’  [480i] [1.78:1] [11:50] Here we have a very personal intimate video interview with Mademoiselle Catherine Deneuve conducted by Geoff Andrew, who is the Head of Film Programme at the BFI [British Film Institute] on the Southbank and a regular contributor to the Sight & Sound publication, discusses Jacques Demy's ‘The Umbrellas of Cherbourg’ and explains how it differs from traditional Hollywood musicals. Mademoiselle Catherine Deneuve also talks about working with several generations of great European directors, from Luis Buñuel and François Truffaut to Lars von Trier and François Ozon; the problems of being a serious actress and a pin-up at the same time; and her fondness for rats. Geoff Andrew tells us that he hates using the word iconic when used to describe people, but in this instance we are talking about an icon because Mademoiselle Catherine Deneuve's face was used as the image of Marianne, and the French national emblem of liberty and reason, for the bicentennial of the French Revolution. She is one of the most iconic stars in world cinema, and a great actress. We also get to see some film clip, which includes Roman Polanski's ‘Repulsion,’ then Luis Buñuel's ‘Belle de Jour,’ then Francois Dupeyron's ‘A Strange Place to Meet,’ and it concludes with André Téchiné's ‘My Favourite Season.’ All in all this is a really fascinating intimate interview.
Special Feature Documentary: The World of Jacques Demy [L'univers de Jacques Demy] [original title]  [480i] [1.33:1] [88:00] In a tribute to her late husband, Agnès Varda the wife of the respected French director honours his life and artistic works by highlighting his vision in clips and interviews. Here STUDIOCANAL brings us a fantastic documentary film produced by Cine-Tamaris which focuses on the life and legacy of Jacques Demy. The documentary contains clips from archival interviews with Anouk Aimee [‘Lola’], Marc Michel [‘Lola’ and ‘Le Trou’], director Agnes Varda, Françoise Fabian [‘3 places pour le 26’], Catherine Deneuve, Dominique Sanda [‘A Room in Town’ and ‘The Conformist’], and Michel Piccoli [‘Les demoiselles de Rochefort’ and ‘Belle de jour’], amongst many other contributors that is too many to list. [French with English subtitles].
Special Feature Documentary: Once Upon A Time ... ‘The Umbrellas of Cherbourg’  [480i] [1.78:1] [51:52] Here we have this wonderful documentary film by Marie Genin and Serge July and focuses on the production history of ‘The Umbrellas of Cherbourg’ which has a timeless appeal. It was great to hear how these two collaborated to create the film that just affected me so much especially with their goal all along. It was also wonderful to see Michel Legrand sitting at a piano while being interviewed, just popping out the tunes on request. The documentary is more broad that just those two, also going into the film’s place in the context of world events. The documentary also contains clips from archival interviews with Jacques Demy, composer Michel Legrand, director Agnes Varda, costume designer Jacqueline Moreau, director Bernard Toublanc-Michel of films ‘Singapore, Singapore’ and ‘Evil Pleasure’ and also actress Catherine Deneuve. [English and French subtitles].
Special Feature: The Restoration of ‘The Umbrellas of Cherbourg’  [1080p] [1.78:1] [6:12] Here is an in-depth look at the new 2K restoration of ‘The Umbrellas of Cherbourg.’ Included here are short comments by Agnes Varda, Rosalie Varda-Demy, director Mathieu Demy, and Thierry Delannoy from DIGimage. We also get to see in-depth before-and-after comparisons. [French with English subtitles].
Special Feature: Audio Interview with Catherine Deneuve from the BFI National Archive [Audio only] [67:00] With this very personal and intimate audio interview, the legendary French actress was recorded at BFI National Archive after the publication of her diaries. Mademoiselle Catherine Deneuve discusses her work with director Roman Polanski on ‘Repulsion,’ her collaboration with the great Luis Bunuel on ‘Belle de jour’ and her first encounter with Jacques Demy and the enormous impact he had on her personal and professional life, as well as her preparation for ‘The Umbrellas of Cherbourg’ as well as her work with her late sister Françoise Dorleac on ‘Les demoiselles de Rochefort.’
Special Feature: Stills Gallery  [1080p] [1:49] Here we have a really nice set collection of original stills from the film and production photographs that has music in the background. This is courtesy of Cine-Tamaris and Agnes Varda.
Theatrical Trailer  [480i] [1.33:1] [2:43] This is the Original Theatrical Trailer for ‘The Umbrellas of Cherbourg.’ [French with English subtitles].
Theatrical Trailer  [1080p] [1.85:1] [2:00] This is the Newly Restored Theatrical Trailer for ‘The Umbrellas of Cherbourg.’ [5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio] [French with English subtitles].
Finally, ‘The Umbrellas of Cherbourg ‘contains so many emotional, dramatic, cinematic, and musical riches that it is easy to see why many people consider it not only Jacques Demy's masterpiece as one of the greatest films, musical or otherwise. It reminds us that we can mend our hearts even when they are at their most broken and although in many ways which we may never have expected, even as we hold onto our memories of the romantic fantasies which we left behind long ago, especially a very beguiling Mademoiselle Catherine Deneuve, a story of unfulfilled young love and class distinctions, and, of course, the radiant colours and marvellous, natural scoring makes ‘The Umbrellas of Cherbourg’ a real treat to watch. Jacques Demy’s film gets a beautiful new restoration as well and looks as vibrant and colourful as ever. It may sometime be difficult to convince people to watch a completely sung French film, but they really should, as ‘The Umbrellas of Cherbourg’ is one of the most enchanting films ever made. This 50th Anniversary Edition release looks really absolutely brilliant and is also packed with lots of added treats. Highly Recommended!
Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Fan
Le Cinema Paradiso
WARE, United Kingdom