In the year 1964, three very diverse and impressive musicals were released, around the same time, in Europe and the United States. Hollywood had the cinematic adaptation of the Broadway musical, My Fair Lady, Britain had the pop-musical, Beatle starrer, A Hard Days Night, and France had
Jacques Demy’s Les Parapluies de Cherbourg.
Each unique in their own way.

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964)

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg
Earlier this week I managed to catch Jacques Demy’s Les Parapluies de Cherbourg (1964); i.e. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg in English, on TV5 MONDE, thanks to the Agnès Varda – Jacques Demy film festival that’s been running on this cable channel, since early last month. A much awaited venture for moi, I had wanted to watch this Catherine Deneuve/Nino Castelnuovo starrer, for almost a decade now. So I was delighted; when I found out it was to be telecast last Tuesday. But to my disappointment, I realised that the movie didn’t contain any subtitles. Yet, I managed to understand the movie well enough, even though my grasp of the French language happens to be très très un peu (extremely limited), and I couldn’t understand majority of the dialogues (or rather lyrics) sung (as not a single word is spoken in prose, but just pure poetry). Yet, I understood the plot, the story, the emotions, et al. The only two necessary segments I really found difficult to comprehend was Roland Cassard’s (Marc Michel) long lament to Geneviève’s (Catherine Deneuve) mother, Madame Emery (Anne Vernon); and how Guy (Nino Castelnuovo) manages to come into money. But I read the synopsis of the story yesterday online, which managed to clear up that minute detail for me.

What a beautifully well crafted movie, with it’s brilliant cinematography, the use of bright colours (the fuchsia pinks, the blues, the bright yellows, the greens, et al), the settings, the streets, the whole mise-en-scène. I just fell in love with Les Parapluies de Cherbourg, a story spanning six years, where two lovers meet every evening in the brick laden streets of Cherbourg, and have to part when the male protagonist is drafted for the Algerian War. Meanwhile the heroine gets pregnant and rarely hears from her beloved, and her worried mother advises her to get married to another well-to-do kindly gentleman who is ready to accept her illegitimate child. Such a sad story told so beautifully, it pulls at your heart strings, to the extent that I re-discovered my romantic side, which I seemed to have lost within the last few years. Considering the fact that most love stories today are just mushy cheesy nonsensical meaningless hogwash; I really needed a classic romance such as this to be reacquainted with my romantic emotional side. I don’t want to give away the ending, but shall just give a hint with this famous Shakespearean quote, Parting is such sweet sorrow.

Les Parapluies de Cherbourg (NSFS)
Les Parapluies de Cherbourg, is definitely now amongst my favourite musicals from the 60’s (see my lists/critiques titled My Top 5 Musicals from the sizzling 60’s & 70’sThe Late 60’s (1966-1970) öö and The Essential 60’s (Top 60) on IMDB to see my other favourites from the 60’s), and one of my favourites among French films. My favourite French flick will always be the tragic epic Jules et Jim (1962), which is part of ‘My Top-10 all time favourite films’ (see my critique on Jules et Jim on my list titled Why I love …. on IMDB).

Catherine Deneuve
Catherine Deneuve
Catherine Deneuve happens to be one of my favourite French actresses. She was amazing in Roman Polanski’s Repulsion (1965), a psychological horror film I watched a decade ago. Repulsion was Polanski’s first English venture, where Deneuve played a beautiful young Belgian loner living in Kensington, London, and slowly going homicidally insane. I loved her in François Ozon’s 8 Femmes (2002), a musical crime comedy revolving around an eccentric family of women, their housekeeper and the new chambermaid. Set in the 1950’s, a man of a wealth is found dead in his large house, and all the eight women (including his wife, the wheelchair bound grandmother, his daughters and two domestics) are each a suspect and everyone of them has a motive. Deneuve played the wife.
I wasn’t that crazy about her role of a lesbian vampire in the Hollywood cult-classic, The Hunger (1983) though, where she is seen cavorting around in bed with Susan Sarandon. Both superb actresses, what they were thinking starring in such a cheap horror flick; beats me. Nor was I a fan of the movie The Musketeer (2001), where she played the queen. Of course I watched all these four Deneuve movies about a decade or more or so ago.
I still haven’t seen Luis Buñuel’s Belle De Jour (1967), which happens to be Deneuve’s most acclaimed performance till date, Demy’s own Peau d’Âne (1970), François Truffaut’s Le Dernier Métro (1980) and Christophe Honoré’s Beloved (2011); to name few.

Jacques Demy et Agnès Varda
Jacques Demy & Agnès Varda
I wasn’t that familiar with, though I was aware of, Jacques Demy’s fantastical colourful work. Same when it comes to Demy’s widow’s, Agnès Varda’s, cinematic wonders. I only got to watch three of Varda’s works last month, due to the Agnès Varda – Jacques Demy film festival, that’s been shown every Tuesday evening, since the second Tuesday of July, on TV5 MONDE, and which shall culminate with Demy’s Les Demoiselles de Rochefort (1967) this coming Tuesday. I really enjoyed Varda’s bio-pic of her late husband, Jacquot de Nantes (1991). Made in a documentary style, the movie chronicles Jacques Demy’s childhood to adolescence, and how real life influenced his cinematic marvels, with the real Demy in a cameo recounting his life story. The other two Varda films shown were, La Bonheur (1965); where the use of colour feels very Demy; and Cléo de 5 à 7 (1962). Out of the trio of Varda films shown I loved, Cléo de 5 à 7, the best. And of course Demy’s Les Parapluies de Cherbourg, the only Demy flick that’s been shown so far for this festival, is the finest piece of artistic cinema of them all.
Am really keen on watching the second Demy film, Les Demoiselles de Rochefort, to be telecast this coming week. It has a cameo by the great Gene Kelly, whose Singin’ in the Rain (1952) happens to be one of my favourite films from the 50’s (See my post The  in my blog, and my pictorial tribute to films of the 50’s, titled 50-50’s on IMDB).

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg poster 1964 NSFS

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