Movie Dictator Club: Les Parapluies De Cherbourg (The Umbrellas Of Cherbourg, 1964)

The Movie Dictator Club for the month of September, 2010 is happy, then sad, then happy again, but always charming!

Written By: Jacques Demy
Directed By: Jacques Demy

First things first, Catherine Deneuve is gorgeous, absolutely freaking gorgeous. I mean, we’re talking stunning here people, like I want a framed picture of her on my wall, that’s how gorgeous she is. There, that needed to be said, and it needed to be said before I got into any other aspect of Les Parapluies De Cherbourg. Don’t get me wrong, the rest of the cast looks great as well, but Deneuve, wow, I want to watch every movie she’s ever made and just stare at her, endlessly.

Okay, like I said, that needed to be said, now let’s get into the real meat and potatoes here people, what exactly are my thoughts on Les Parapluies De Cherbourg? It’s hyperbole I know, but I can’t recall another film I have ever seen that was so happy, so sad and yet remained charming throughout it all. There isn’t a moment of ugliness to be found in Les Parapluies De Cherbourg, there should be, but thanks to Jacques Demy there isn’t. The moments that are the saddest sill have a certain charm to them and they still look beautiful. I can’t overstate how beautiful and colorful Les Parapluies De Cherbourg is and how that shapes the way I looked at the film.

Lush colors are around every corner, even the muted grays of winter pop off the screen with color. It’s a very false looking film in that sense, you can tell that Les Parapluies De Cherbourg has been morphed to represent a directorial ideal. That isn’t a bad thing however, because Demy earns the way the film looks. Once again it goes back to the charm of the film, the charm that permeates every aspect of Les Parapluies De Cherbourg’s production. Les Parapluies De Cherbourg is a dream state, it isn’t the real world and Demy never shies away from this. That’s why even as Guy’s life is turning to shambles I couldn’t help but have a smile on my face.

Speaking of good ole Guy, what happens to him gets to perhaps my favorite part of Les Parapluies De Cherbourg. The segment involving his return from the army is heartbreaking, it is sad moment after sad moment. Yet, still, that charming sheen remains over the top of his heartbreak. I don’t know how, I really don’t, but somehow in those moments Demy manages to present a charming tale that also captures the truth behind the happenstance nature of life. We often don’t get the life we planned for, in fact we rarely do, but we make the most of what we are given. Watching Guy make the most of his life makes all the heartbreak seem worth it, and still, good god, it’s still oh so damn charming.

Les Parapluies De Cherbourg could have died based on its dialogue presentation, but it doesn’t. The idea of every bit of dialogue being presented in song certainly isn’t original, at least I don’t think it is, but still, there is something enchanting about the way it is done in Les Parapluies De Cherbourg. Deneuve hits certain notes that are so gosh darn warming to the ear, yes I just said warming, that I am at a loss as to how to explain them. The dialogue being presented as music in Les Parapluies De Cherbourg is a simple situation of something just feeling right, and when that happens it’s always a joy.

I can’t say much to convince you of the greatness of Les Parapluies De Cherbourg. After one viewing it sits just outside my top fifty of all time, so it certainly impacted me a great deal. I don’t think Les Parapluies De Cherbourg is a movie that you can read about and get, you really do need to experience it because it is a movie that is all about its presentation. But most of all, Les Parapluies De Cherbourg is all about its charm, that god damn charm.




5 responses to “Movie Dictator Club: Les Parapluies De Cherbourg (The Umbrellas Of Cherbourg, 1964)

  1. I saw this not long ago, picking it up on impulse and not expecting a great deal from it. But I had the same reaction as you and absolutely loved it. I think you hit all the high points: the gorgeous Deneuve (she still looks great), the movie’s artificiality being a representation of a “directorial idea,” the movie’s sense of joy and beauty even in its sad parts, how surprisingly well having everything sung works. Watching it was a wonderful experience, and I immediately followed it with “Lola,” “Bay of Angels,” (both of which also deal with the way chance can control one’s life), and “Peau d’Ane”–all highly recommended. A great post that I hope inspires readers to check out this wonderful movie.

  2. Pingback: Classic Chops: September 29th |

  3. Nice review.

    I saw Umbrellas when it came out and sat there with my date thinking, wow, this is the ultimate date movie. However, my original intentions did not fit the mood of the movie at all and I ended up wanting real romance instead, which I wasn’t going to find with the person sitting next to me.

    I remember reading recently that the movie had been reissued with enhanced colors. I wonder if that’s the version you saw. The colors were pretty fantastic in the original anyway.

  4. It was the song that led me to watch this haunting movie. A simple story with the late fifties & early sixties as the background but brought out the social essence of that era. The song was nominated Oscar Best Song in 1965 but lost to “The shadow of your smile” from the movie Sandpiper. Nino Castelnuovo and Catherine Deneuvre were the right picks for the cast. I was told that this was the favourite movie of French President Charles De Gaulle despite of some anti-war overtone (The Algeria War).

  5. R.D. – thanks for the kind words. 🙂

    Joe – I’m not sure which version I saw, I got the disc from Netflix, that’s about the most I can tell you.

    Wyip – Interesting factoid about De Gaulle, I did not know that.

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