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The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964) - Cinémathèque


The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964)

Les Parapluies de Cherbourg
France, West Germany | 1964 | Jacques Demy

In French with subtitles

Our Valentine’s Day presentation! A French shopgirl (Catherine Deneuve, luminous) loves a mechanic but marries another man in Jacques Demy's groundbreaking, all-singing musical—a romantic, candy-colored concoction with a bittersweet aftertaste.

Music by Michel Legrand. Palme d'Or winner, Cannes 1964. Subtitles. 35mm. 91 minutes.

Special thanks to Institut Français; Florence Almozini, French Embassy, New York; Laurence Geannopulos, French Consulate, Chicago.

Film should be over around 8:15 p.m. Since this is late on a weeknight we'll not schedule a discussion or dinner. If those attending want to meet after it will be decided by yhose attending.

Jacques Demy's 1964 masterpiece is a pop-art opera, or, to borrow the director's own description, a film in song.

This simple romantic tragedy begins in 1957. Guy Foucher (Nino Castelnuovo), a 20-year-old French auto mechanic, has fallen in love with 17-year-old Geneviève Emery (a luminous Catherine Deneuve), 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, he and Geneviève make love. She becomes pregnant and must choose between waiting for Guy's return or accepting an offer of marriage from a wealthy diamond merchant (Marc Michel, reprising his role from Demy's masterful debut, Lola).

A completely sung movie, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is closest in form to a cinematic opera. Composer Michel Legrand composed the score, modeling it around the patterns of everyday conversation. Umbrellas was re-released in 1997. ~ Jason Ankeny, Rovi


Madame Emery and her beautiful 16-year-old daughter Geneviève (Deneuve) sellumbrellas ( at their tiny (and financially struggling) boutique ( in the coastal town ofCherbourg ( in Normandy, France (,_France), in the late 1950s. Guy (Castelnuovo), is a handsome young auto mechanic ( who lives with, and cares for, his sickly aunt,godmother ( Elise. Guy and Geneviève are deeply in love; they want to get married, and they want to name their first child "Francoise". Madeleine (Ellen Farner) is the quiet, shy, dedicated young caregiver who looks after of Guy's aunt; Madeleine also has feelings for Guy, but has not expressed this. Suddenly Guy is drafted ( and must leave to become a soldier in the Algerian War ( The night before Guy leaves, he and Geneviève pledge their undying love. Then they make love (apparently for the first time) and the very next day, Guy leaves.

After a couple of months it becomes clear that Geneviève is pregnant. She writes to Guy, but she feels abandoned when Guy writes back very infrequently; her mother tells her this is a sign that Guy has forgotten her, and she should give up on him. Geneviève has another suitor in Roland Cassard (Marc Michel), a quiet, kind, young Parisian jeweler, who is very wealthy, and who wants to marry her even after he finds out that she is carrying another man's child. Cassard had previously unsuccessfully wooed the title character in Lola (; he relates a version of this story to Madame Emery, who repeatedly urges Geneviève to be sensible and embrace a secure future with Cassard. Geneviève finally decides she will accept Roland, and they are married in a great cathedral, but Geneviève does not seem happy with her choice.

When Guy returns from the war with a slight limp from an injury, he learns that the umbrella store has been sold, and that Geneviève got married and left Cherbourg. As a returning serviceman, Guy has difficulties trying to continue with his previous life. He argues with his boss, quits his job, and goes to drink in a seedy port bar. He spends the night with a friendly prostitute named Jenny, who in the morning reveals that her name is actually Geneviève. Them, when he returns to his apartment, he discovers a distraught Madeleine, who tells him tearfully that his godmother died the night before.

Guy sees that Madeleine loves him, and he cleans up his life with her encouragement. With an inheritance ( from his aunt, he is able to finance a new "American-style" Esso ( station. He asks Madeleine to marry him, and she accepts, though she first wonders if he is asking her out of despair at Geneviève's actions.

The coda ( is set in December 1963, approximately six years after the earliest events. Guy is now managing the couple's Esso ( station. He is happily married, with his loving wife Madeleine and their little son François. It is Christmas Eve ( Madeleine and François go for a short walk, leaving Guy briefly, after which a new Mercedes ( pulls into the station. The mink-clad driver turns out to be a sophisticated and wealthy Geneviève, accompanied by her (and Guy's) daughter Françoise, who remains in the car. Shocked to see each other, they go inside the station to talk. Geneviève explains that this is the first time she has been to Cherbourg since her marriage, and she is only in town on a detour. She also explains that her (middle-aged) mother died the previous autumn. It is apparent that her rich husband and her daughter Françoise are the only family she has left; she has had no children with Cassard. The two converse while Geneviève's car is being filled with gas, and when Geneviève asks Guy if he wants to meet their daughter, he declines. With restrained emotion, they part. As the film ends, Guy greets his wife with a kiss and plays very happily with his son in the snow.


Catherine Deneuve ( as Geneviève Emery

Anne Vernon ( as Madame Emery

Mireille Perrey ( as Aunt Élise

Ellen Farner ( as Madeleine

Nino Castelnuovo ( as Guy Foucher

Marc Michel ( as Roland Cassard

Jean Champion ( as Aubin

Pierre Caden ( as Bernard

Jean-Pierre Dorat ( as JeanMusic[

The continuous music score and the colour photography had much to do with the popularity of this film. Formally the work is operatic, with the plot advanced entirely through dialogue sung with accompanying music. The color photography is bright and vivid: and the whole is united by an orchestral score of simple but sincere rhythms and tunes that permeate continuously a story of events lasting at least five years.

The actors' voices were dubbed for the songs in The Umbrellas of Cherbourg:[4] (

Danielle Licari ( Geneviève Emery

José Bartel ( Guy Foucher

Christiane Legrand ( Madame Emery

Georges Blaness ( Roland Cassard

Claudine Meunier ( Madeleine

Claire Leclerc ( Aunt Élise

The film score established composer Michel Legrand ('s reputation in Hollywood, where he later scored other films, winning three Oscars ( In North America, two of the film's songs became hits and were recorded by many artists: "I Will Wait For You (" (the main theme) and "Watch What Happens" (originally "Recit de Cassard" "Cassard's Story ("). Both were given new English lyrics by lyricist Norman Gimbel ( Tony Bennett ('s classic performance of the theme song was added to one version of the soundtrack CD.


The version released in 2004 on DVD by Koch-Lorber Films ( is a completely restored version of the original.

The film was originally shot on Eastman ( negative stock which rapidly faded and became almost unusable. In addition, the various copies of the film used in the cinema circuit also gradually lost their quality, which meant that Umbrellas could never be seen with the rich colours that Demy had originally intended.

Knowing that the Eastman stock would fade over time, Demy fortunately, had the three main yellow, cyan and magenta color separation masters ( made on black and white negative films that couldn't fade (a process similar to the creation of the older Technicolor process: see the article on Technicolor ( for an explanation of this 'three-strip' process).

These black-and-white prints had greater longevity and in the 1990s, Demy's wife, film director Agnès Varda (, headed a project to create a new colour negative from the three black and white separations from which newly restored full-color prints could then be made. The resulting film recaptured Demy's vision of a fantastically colourful Cherbourg.

In addition, composer Michel Legrand assisted in restoring the original 4-track stereo sound masters to digital and remastering his score to produce a higher-quality version, now available on CD.


Prix Louis-Delluc (, 1963

Palme d'Or ( at the 1964 Cannes Film Festival (

Critics' prize for Best Film, by the French Syndicate of Film Critics, 1965Nominated for the

Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film ( at the

37th Academy Awards ( held in 1965

Nominated for four more

Academy Awards ( at the 38th Academy Awards ( held in 1966, three for Legrand and Demy, though it did not win any: "

Best Song (

" (for "I Will Wait For You"), "

Best Original Score (

", "Best Scoring - Adaptation or Treatment" and "Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen"

Stage adaptation

In 2011, the Kneehigh Theatre Company presented the musical, starring Joanna Riding ( as Madame Emery, cabaret artist Meow Meow ( as the Maîtresse and Andrew Durand as Guy.[8] ( The production was directed by Emma Rice ( It was given tryouts at Leicester's Curve Theatre ( from 11 to 26 February 2011 and began previews in the West End ( at the Gielgud Theatre ( from 5 March, officially opening on 22 March.[9] ( It was due to run until October 2011, but closed on 21 May 2011.[10] (

The West End cast as:[11] (

Joanna Riding (

as Madame EmeryAndrew Durand as Guy Foucher

Dominic Marsh (

as Roland Cassard/Aunt EliseLaura Brydon as EnsembleGareth Charlton as Dubourg/Sailor/Animator

Chris Jenkins (

as Ensemble/Swing

Meow Meow (

as MaîtresseCarly Bawden as Geneviève EmeryCynthia Erivo as MadeleineMatt Wilman as Sailor/EnsembleAki Omoshaybi as Sailor/AnimatorGillian Budd as Ensemble/SwingReception

The film was well received by critics. Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes ( gives it a score of 98% based on reviews from 48 critics, judging it "Certified Fresh" with the site's consensus: "Jacques Demy elevates the basic drama of everyday life into a soaring opera full of bittersweet passion and playful charm, featuring a timeless performance from Catherine Deneuve."[12] (

It was shown as part of the Cannes Classics section of the 2013 Cannes Film Festival ([13] (

In popular culture

In Mad Men season 4, episode 3 ("The Good News"), Don Draper ( and Lane Pryce ( - who are both in the office on New Year's Day - discuss going to see this movie together.

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