Sunday, October 18, 2009

Les Parapluies de Cherbourg (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg) (1964)

Man, France has been letting me down lately. I'll have to watch Amelie or something soon. The operatic The Umbrellas of Cherbourg covers the lives of a mother, Madame Emery (Ann Vernon), and her 17-year-old daughter, Geneviève (Catherine Deneuve), whose unprofitable umbrella shop and slightly upscale lifestyle has led to financial struggles. Geneviève is in love with Guy (Nino Castelnuovo), a mechanic, and they hope to be married soon despite her mother's reservations about his ability to provide for her. When Guy is drafted and sent to Algeria, Geneviève is heartbroken but waits for him faithfully despite their growing emotional distance.

She finds she is pregnant and tries to hide it from her mother's friend and jewelry dealer Roland (Marc Michel), who develops a strong attachment to her. Eventually he proposes to Geneviève despite her pregnancy, and she accepts, believing he can better support her and her soon-to-be-born child. Guy returns to discover that his love has moved to Paris with a new husband and a daughter he's never even met, so he goes on a bender and stresses over his sickly aunt. Maybe he'll find new love in a place he never thought to look, or something.

Ugh. This movie is so dumb. Though supposedly made "for all the lovers in the wide, wide world", The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is surprisingly unromantic. Guy and Geneviève are in love, ok, but I have no idea why. Their conversations are inane and unfeeling and I don't know anything about their relationship, except that it's not strong enough to survive a few months apart. It's completely unconvincing. The relationship between Geneviève and Roland is also not founded on anything- he's captivated by her beauty I guess and she's incapable of thinking for herself. Then Guy turns around and realizes he's in love with a character we saw for a few minutes at the beginning, and she's not at all put off by his neediness or self-absorption. At first I felt bad for him because what Geneviève did is unnecessarily cruel, but then Guy didn't even try to find them or make an effort to see his daughter. All of the people in this movie are flat and unlikable, and I quickly grew weary of their whining. I couldn't even pretend I cared what happened to them.

The entirety of the dialogue is sung, which I can deal with, but the music isn't very good and the lyrics are overly simplistic (then again I can't really speak to that since I was watching translated subtitles). It's not really melodic and there's little sense of clear, connected rhythms or movements. It sounds all over the place and boils down to a bunch of people clumsily singing stilted dialogue over a scattered score. The only saving grace here is the gorgeous visual design: everything is extremely colorful and whimsical, and people have a tendency to match their clothes to the wallpaper, which I really enjoy. But a gorgeous aesthetic is not enough to give a story depth or interest.



  1. Haha. I do have to say that I liked this! I agree however that the highlight is the visual design. The Esso scene at the end is particularly memorable to me.