Les Parapluies de Cherbourg (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg) 1964

Is Les Parapluies de Cherbourg a musical? I’m inclined to say not. A musical has songs – discrete songs – but this has instead an entirely sung script (with no break, no beginning nor end except the opening and closing of the film). This is an intriguingly Brechtian device – there is no naturalism here, you know you are watching a movie, its artifice is always front and centre – forcing you to look at this not as a naturally unfolding story but as a piece of cinema created by some one, a story told by someone – Jacques Demy. The colourful set design reinforces this. This makes the work interesting in so many ways, and well worth seeing for this facet alone. Another reason to see it is for the sublime beauty of a young Catherine Deneuve.  She is stunning as the one of the central characters: Genevieve. All of this belies the simplicity of the story (you don’t watch this movie for the story though do you?) – a tale of youthful first love foundering on pregnancy, separation and circumstance. The ending – where, married to others,  they meet each other years later – seems pat and trite and yet it isn’t. You are left with a lingering sense that neither would have been as happy together as they are apart, with their respective spouses. This is more thoughtful and thought-provoking than any trivial romantic musical has any right to be.

Rating: 3/5

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~ by Doug Newdick on March 19, 2008.

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