The Umbrellas of Cherbourg – dir Jacques Demy – 1964 – Trailer
Jacques Demy’s 1964 film The Umbrellas of Cherbourg isn’t quite like anything else you’ll ever see (and that includes Demy’s loopier, messier musical follow-up The Young Girls of Rochefort). The first things that viewers notice about the film, and the last things that they would ever be likely to forget, are that The Umbrellas of Cherbourg unfolds in a rainbow of candy colors, and that every single line of dialogue is sung. It feels like a tribute to the glorious movie-ness of the movie musical, the heightened reality of all those sweet confections that the studios used to release so often, and viewers used to gobble up so eagerly. (At the top of the film, one gentleman ironically sings that he prefers movies to stage shows because all of the singing gives him a pain: a nod to Demy’s self-aware desire to make the movies sing again.) Yet while Umbrellas displays a reverence for Old Hollywood’s lavish musicals – which were the farthest thing from fashionable in 1964 – it uses their frothy look and feel to tell a story with a surprising level of grown up melancholy. As Roger Ebert puts it, “This style would seem to suggest a work of featherweight romanticism, but Umbrellas is unexpectedly sad and wise, a bittersweet reflection on the way true love sometimes does not (and perhaps should not) conquer all.” Unlike so many of our favorite movie musicals, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg understands that a passionate kiss and a glorious swell of music does not necessarily guarantee happily ever after.