on 6 February 2006
(Read the synopsis of the film above)
Having never seen a Jacque Demy film before, or a French Musical, I had no idea what to expect, and bought this after seeing an interview with Catherine Deneuve on UK TV, where the presenter, Jonathan Ross, gave it glowing reviews. It certainly is a beautiful film, the use of colour is stunning, the direction beautiful, and brilliantly performed by all the actors. As for the music, the film is sung from start to finish, not a single spoken word, and it works well, the actors lip synching perfect. The film is in 3 specific sections; (I don’t want to give too much away) the before, the absence and the return, and what I particularly liked about this film, is that it may be a musical, but it still has a powerful emotional punch, not a light ‘Hollywood’ theme. This isn’t ‘Grease’, this is more ‘Evita’ in that it is a film dealing with serious issues; unwanted pregnancy, parental pressure, death, war and more. The final scene was perfectly realised, and brought a tear to my eye.
The extras: Knowing nothing about Jacque Demy, the 90 documentary on his life and films is fascinating, and an excellent introduction into how he works and his love of film. It was great to see rare footage of Jim Morrison and a pre-fame Harrison Ford pop up, amongst many stars (Catherine Deneuve for starters) lending their thoughts about this great filmmaker. Not only that, it has encouraged me to see more of his films, especially the musical ‘Donkey Skin’ which sounds and looks magical. There is also a beautiful short film (not directed by Demy) with music by Legrand (who did the music for Umbrellas and most of his other musicals) that is an interesting watch.
One of the comments below discusses the quality of this release – it was perfect as far as I could see, excellent sound and picture, however, I haven’t seen the other versions so I can’t comment.
on 8 November 2005
My earliest memories include listening to a badly recorded audio tape with a few tracks of this movie's soundtrack on it. I listened to that old tape over and over and over...
This movie is a wonderful, very unique and unconventional musical, and in the DVD transfer the sound quality is as important as the quality of the picture.
There are three DVD releases of Les Parapluies de Cherbourg (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg) out at the moment. I have a copy of each. I also have the soundtrack on CD. The French version (from www.amazon.fr) of the DVD has by far the best image quality, but rather harsh (though correct pitch) sound. The US version (amazon.com) has inferior picture but has a more listenable soundtrack.
The brand new UK (Optimum) version that this review is about essentially appears to be a straightforward (crude) PAL conversion of the US NTSC release. There is no discernable difference in picture quality between the two releases, and the sound of the UK version is simply sped up, so the pitch is a semitone too high. The pitch shift is very obvious, especially if one is familiar with the original soundtrack. This is inexcusable, when it is so easy to achieve the PAL speedup (using rather basic sound processing software) without shifting pitch.
The higher pitch of this release takes away the sweetness of the female voice and the warmth of the male vocals. I would advise against purchasing this release of The Umbrellas of Cherbourg.
I would recommend getting either the US release which has the best sound of all three, or the French release, which has the best picture (and, despite being PAL, correct pitch sound).
on 10 August 2008
Attention: in this review I will reveal spoilers.
A wonderful musical film from Jacques Demy. Set in a fantasy Cherbourg (a French seaside town famous for its rainy weather) during the late 50s and going on for several years, it consists in three acts. First act: Genevieve (a very young Catherine Deneuve) is a teenager living with her mother, with whom she works in a shop that sells umbrellas. She fells in love with Guy (a car mechanic, played by Nino Castelnuovo), who is only a little older than she is. Her mother opposes the romance, as she sees Genevieve as too young and Guy as too poor. Guy is drafted to the Algerian war for two years, but not before leaving Genevieve pregnant. Act two: Genevieve's mother not only has now an unwed pregnant daughter, but the financial situation of her shop is dire. Fortunately for her, a diamond dealer in love with Genevieve agrees to pay her debts. He wants to marry Genevieve (despite being pregnant with other man), and eventually Genevieve will agree. Third Act: Guy returns from the war with a limp in one of his legs. He goes to Genevieve's shop, but sees that mother and daughter have gone. He becomes bitter, is soon fired from his job. His beloved aunt dies, and after that, he marries her caretaker, Madeleine. With his aunt's legacy, he is able to buy a gas station. He and Madeleine have a boy. Final Scene: Christmas Eve. Genevieve, now married and with a daughter, arrives with her car to Guy's gas station. Surprised to see each other, they decide to go inside the station to talk, but they both soon realize that their relationship belongs to the past. She goes away, and soon Madeleine and their boy arrive, and they celebrate Christmas by throwing each other snow balls. End of movie. All this is done through sung lines (rather than songs proper). It's an extremely entertaining and amazingly fluid movie, despite not having the traditional happiness of musical movies. Demy tried to repeat the magic a few years later with Les Demoiselles de Rochefort (also with Deneuve), but he couldn't; that's a much weaker movie. Only quibble with Cherbourg: Isn't the constant product placement for Esso a bit too much?
on 20 September 2001
This film is one of those rare movies that will stay with you forever. Not only will you find yourself humming the soundtrack to yourself for months afterwards, but the beautiful sets, costumes and casting with never cease to amaze. When I first saw this film it brought me to tears (not just because of the bitter/sweet portrayal of love, but also beacuse of the sheer romance)
Any one who is failed to be moved by the awesome railway scene must be lacking of all emotion.
This is a must see movie if ever there was one. And you want to see it, share it and remeber it forever.
on 21 September 2011
What a gem of pure enchantment this musical film is. Whatching this is an amazing experience. The colour is magical and enhanced, like a world looking in upon the real world, whilst also being very realisic.
The music is continous, and varied from Big Band Swing to lush Strings, and traditional Accordian arrangements. The classic score from Michel Legrand includes the classic theme 'I will wait for you'.
There is no spoken word, every bit of dialoge is sung in French.(subtitles are available).
From the new wave of film making in the 1960's this Jacques Demy film won the Palma d'Or at the 1964 Cannes Film Festival.
Demy and Legrand collaborated for many years, and most of their films were produced on a low budget. It is sometimes called his trbute to Hollywood, and he was invited to make films there when Umberellas of Cherbourg was an international success, but it is not Hollywood, it is essentialy French.
Catherine Deneuve plays Genevieve Emery, a 17 year old working with her Mother in their Umbrella Shop. She is radiant and in love with Guy Foucher (Nino Castelnuovo) a young motor Mechanic, who lives with his ailing Aunt Elise, looked after by Madelline. Set in 1957, their romance is ended when Guy has to serve 2 years National Service,in the army fighting a war with Algeria. They make love and plan to marry on his return. Genevieve is pregnant, and short of money, her overbearing Mother persuades her to marry a rich Diamond Merchant Roland Cassard (Marc Michel), whom they meet when she is trying to sell a necklace at the Jewellers.
Guy returns to find the shop closed, and no word from Genevieve, but he is changed also, and whilst a slight leg injury heals, the film explores the problems of settling back to civillian life. He has his old job but unable to take orders with his former optimism and charm, he leaves it. When his Aunt dies round about 1960, he follows his dream with his legacy, and opens up a Petrol Station, finds new happiness and marries Madelline, with whom he has a son Francois. In 1963 Genevieve passes through Cherbourg with their daughter Francoise around Christmastime, a wealthy lady, in a black Mercedes, on her way back to Paris from Anjou but there is only a cold acceptance between them, like the winter weather. Life moves on.
On disc two there is a 90 minute documentary 'The world of Jacques Demy' including clips from some of his other works. Also a very charming short film 'L'Amerique Lunaire' with the music of Michel Legrand, plus Trailers, and an introduction by Geoff Andrew. All very informative and fascinating. Well worth the money, and I would rate it at 8 stars at least.
A semi followup to Jacques Demy's Lola - both Michel Legrand's main theme and Marc Marcel's character return - The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is surprisingly upbeat despite its subject matter. A traditional lost love story set against the backdrop of the Algerian War that separates the lovers, it opts for a less than traditional realistic ending that shows how their lives change, not necessarily for the worse, after they are parted. It's last act is darker than people give it credit, dealing with the young hero's disillusion on his return, oddly enough made more affecting by the triteness of what precedes it. While shot in some of the most glorious colour imagery ever seen, the dialogue is little more than sung banalities, whether it's a declaration of undying love or an extra asking where the paint shop is, which somehow grounds it. Even the location of the finale, an Esso filling station, is ultimately mundane, yet somehow becomes a gloriously romantic location for a wistfully bitter parting.
While Tartan's original and now deleted PAL DVD release offered a good enough transfer on the film, it's extras-light compared to the Optimum two-disc set which also includes the feature length documentary The World of Jacques Demy aka L'Univers de Jacques Demy, Agnes Varda's second film about her husband (after her semi-fictionalised film about his childhood, Jacquot de Nantes). It eschews a chronological approach for a more scrapbook like amble through his career, which is one way of avoiding the inevitable decline of his career and ending on a high. Utilizing archive interviews, on-set footage, reuniting co-stars and hearing from fans (mostly teenage girls), surprises abound, such as footage of Demy and Harrison Ford hanging around while shooting tests for his forgotten US sequel to Lola, Model Shop (Ford was replaced by Gary Lockwood at the studio's insistence Ford would never be a box-office star) or a chubby Jim Morrison visiting the set of Peau D'Ane. While it offers ample inadvertent examples of why much of his post-60s work was less than successful - many of the more obscure films look simply awful - it does make you want to see the odd lesser-known work like the surprisingly dark looking The Pied Piper, and the 90 minutes pass surprisingly easily.
on 17 October 2005
This is cinema as it was meant to be - pure escapism. From the first notes of young innocent love to the final tragic encounter between a man and a woman destined for each other, "Les Parapluies de Cherbourg" is uplifting, sweet, sad, beautiful and devastating. If you can watch without in turn smiling and crying, you're missing out. The fact that every word is sung in French, to an absolutely enchanting film score, turns a sumptuous story into a work of art. Visually, the colours of the sets are a delight on the eye. And Catherine Deneuve is possibly the most exquisitely beautiful woman to have graced the cinema screen. This is one of the three films you'd take with you when you move to Mars.
Thsi is a very pleasant and unusual film. It stars the young Catherine Deneuve in a singing role - the film is a little opera in the sense that all the dialogue is sung, though the music itself is not at all operatic but extremely light. Genevieve (Deneuve) loves Guy (Nino Castelnuovo), but he is drafted into the Army and she marries a decent older man whom she does not love. Later, Genevieve and Guy meet again in a gently poignant final scene. And that's about it! I like the way French films don't always have to tie up the loose ends but can leave things as they often are in life, not quite as they should be but ... acceptable. Deneuve sings very well, as does Castelnuovo, and it is surprising how quickly the viewer accepts the strange way in which the story is told. The film is beautifully set and quite affecting, and its unusualness is a bonus.
on 10 February 2009
I am now 65 and first saw this in a church hall with other members of friendship league when I was 17 .Shocked when it started and realised they were singing ,But came enthraled and at the end so many of us had a little cough to cover up the choking inside .Lovely film
on 1 February 2015
Ah, Jacques Demy's delightful 'Les Parapluies de Cherbourg', with its wonderful score by Michel Legrand, and the radiant Catherine Deneuve, now available on Blu-ray. And in fine form it is, with the excellent restoration given a high quality Blu-ray treatment and package.
I was somewhat uncertain as to whether I should buy this, seeing that it was from StudioCanal. I had read some disappointment-laden reviews of this company's Blu-ray edition of Akira Kurosawa's 'Ran', and thought that perhaps other films would fare badly under its treatment. However, this is not the case with 'The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (50th Anniversary Edition) Blu-ray', which delivers well in all respects.
The extra features are also worth mentioning, and well round out this package. Highly recommended.