The Review/Short Read/

One To Watch: The Umbrellas of Cherbourg

City of Rains before City of Stars?

May 22, 2017


In the film that launched her to stardom, Catherine Deneuve plays a young woman named Genevieve, the daughter of a widow (Anne Vernon) who runs a little umbrella shop. Genevieve is in love with a garage mechanic named Guy (Nino Castelnuovo); her mother doesn't approve of the relationship, believing her daughter too young to get married. Although ready to confront Genevieve’s mother, the couple ends up separated when Guy is summoned to war. As Guy leaves to join the army, a wealthy man (Marc Michel) walks into the shop, falling in love with Genevieve and beginnning a slow, indirect process that might lead to a proposal of marriage. Trapped between her promise of eternal love for Guy and a possible solution to her mother’s economic problems, Genevieve must make a life-altering decision.

"Umbrellas is unexpectedly sad and wise, a bittersweet reflection on the way true love sometimes does not (and perhaps should not) conquer all." Roger Ebert. on The Umbrellas of Cherbourg

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When La La Land premiered, it was praised for bringing back the “magical aura” of the cinema with a storyline that, although not new, enchanted audiences. What many people may not know is that La La Land’s successful storytelling has its roots in this 1964 French classic.

Winner of the Palme d'Or in Cannes, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg was one of the first movies to be a “sung-through” musical. The risk was worth it. La La Land's director Damien Chazelle says it's one of his favourite films: “No movie has ever hit me more. I remember seeing it for the first time as a kid and going from annoyed — 'Are they really going to do this much singing?' — to utterly overwhelmed by the end. It was the combination of fantasy and realism that got me."

Chazelle couldn’t have said it better. Jacques Demy’s candy-coated scenery contrasts perfectly with Michel Legrand’s sensible score, masterfully creating a bittersweet atmosphere and a thrilling and rewarding ride, as enthralling as ever after 52 years.

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg screens at TIFF Bell Lightbox Tuesday, May 23, at 8:45 p.m..

"The film creates a fairy tale with a profoundly humane coda." Chicago Tribune on The Umbrellas of Cherbourg