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The Umbrellas of Cherbourg


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Fellas (and ladies), I saw "Umbrellas" about six years ago, projected at the National Gallery of Art. It's one of the grandest moviegoing experiences of my life. If you can make this showing, by all means, do so. The movie is a complete knockout. It left me giddy. My laserdisc just can't match the theatrical presentation, and I'm sure the DVD also is no match.

If you don't know much about the movie, as I didn't when I first saw it, that's all the better.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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I not only saw this when it was re-issued a few years ago, I got a review copy of the two-disc soundtrack. It's a beaut, to be sure.

BTW, Alan, any chance you could shrink the photo a little, so it doesn't stretch this thread beyond the margins of screens like mine?

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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The movie is a complete knockout. It left me giddy. My laserdisc just can't match the theatrical presentation, and I'm sure the DVD also is no match. If you don't know much about the movie, as I didn't when I first saw it, that's all the better.

Yeah, that's right. Giddy is a nice word. The film is absolutely magical, and the restoration that came through a couple (?) years ago was brilliant. Still for those who want the dvd, Facets mail order is selling it for $10 right now. Quite a bargain. But, like Christian said, don't miss a chance to see it large.

J Robert

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  • 2 weeks later...

For those (like me) who aren't going to get to see this wonderful film in theaters, there is a new DVD (with a new transfer, I believe) coming out on April 6th by Koch.

Languages/Subtitles:

Original Language: French

Subtitles Available: English

Audio/Video Features: Widescreen, Anamorphic16x9; Color; 5.1 Surround

Product Features: Cast/Crew Biographies

Special Features: Jacques Demy Featurette

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Yes! I saw it at the DFT Monday night series back around the same time that Christian caught it. Went with The Babe. She was suspicious. Late teens and early twenties, I was a fan of Michel LeGrand and that was the draw for me. And of course, all singing. No dialog. These were just the sort of things that Dena was suspicious of. She loved it as much as I. We have the DVD. Still, NOTHING, NOTHING can match the BIG screen. Go to see it.

"During the contest trial, the Coleman team presented evidence of a further 6500 absentees that it felt deserved to be included under the process that had produced the prior 933 [submitted by Franken, rk]. The three judges finally defined what constituted a 'legal' absentee ballot. Countable ballots, for instance, had to contain the signature of the voter, complete registration information, and proper witness credentials.

But the panel only applied the standards going forward, severely reducing the universe of additional basentees the Coleman team could hope to have included. In the end, the three judges allowed about 350 additional absentees to be counted. The panel also did nothing about the hundreds, possibly thousands, of absentees that have already been legally included, yet are now 'illegal' according to the panel's own ex-post definition."

The Wall Street Journal editorial, April 18, 2009 concerning the Franken Coleman decision in the Minnesota U.S. Senate race of 2008.

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Just to get ready for catching Umbrellas soon I went out a snagged both Lola and Bay of Angels to refresh my memory on Demy. The recent Bay of Angels release actually has a snippet from The Universe of Jaques Demy in which we watch people talking about events that led to the film, the making of the film, and various anecdotes that Varda is so good at rooting out. Well worth seeing.

Lola is fantastic. It has Coutard's touch all over it, great tracking shots, perfect angles on the streets, and touching interior moments. Bay and Umbrellas have such a different feel to them, probably because Rabier did the cinematography on these two. He is also the one who worked with Varda on her first great film Cleo..., and Happiness a little later. He also did most of Chabrol's films from the 60's and into the 80's (Chabrol has made way too many films).

One notable Chabrol (my favorite one) that Rabier didn't do was Les Bonnes Femmes which was suprisingly enough done by a guy named Henri Decae, who did Truffaut's cinematography in [drum roll] The 400 Blows. Les Bonnes Femmes has a great late 60's Cahiers du Cinema feel to it: textured, environmental, and edited with a reckless honesty. We can't say this about many of Chabrol's films.

So Chabrol's films are really affected by who he uses as a DP/Cinematographer. Same with Demy. Lola feels so connected to the New Wave because it is, right through Coutard. Unfortunately, I am more of a fan of Demy when he is not working with Rabier than when he is.

I am struggling with how to fit Demy into the history of the New Wave. He is just as tough to pigeonhole as Varda is. Neither of them made many films (relatively), and Varda actually made more than Demy so we don't have too much to work with. I am really interested in seeing Umbrellas again in this context.

I don't want to cast dispersions on Bay of Angels because it wasn't done by my favorite DP, it really is a fantastic story. The melodrama is a bit tawdry at points, which may be the reason why I have a hard time really equating it with other New Wave films at the time. Truffaut, Godard, Rivette, and others were masters at the gentle touch when it came to moments that could be melodramatic. (At least while they were young.) But by and large Bay of Angels is a great little film.

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

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  • 1 year later...

Mark Steyn writes a love letter to the film.

FWIW, I just realized that my own review, for the student paper I co-edited back in the mid-1990s, is on page 12 of this PDF file.

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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How timely. I just scratched out a review of this film, which has caused a reorganization of my top 20 list.

He says this:

"Some critics I respect compared Moulin Rouge to Umbrellas of Cherbourg: the later film is certainly as style-obsessed as its predecessor, but the glibness of that style suffocates the movie. Les Parapluies manages to be, at critical moments, both stylish and naturalistic."

That is too true.

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

Filmwell | Twitter

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  • 4 years later...

Jonathan Rosenbaum has re-posted his review of the 1996 re-release. It's a beaut, and contains some interesting snippets, e.g.:

As luck would have it, I first saw Les parapluies de Cherbourg (1964) about two years too early — before my first trip to France. I didn’t have a clue about how faithful it is to everyday French life. I’d already seen and enjoyed at least a couple of Jacques Demy movies by then: his ravishing first feature, Lola (1960), one of the seminal works of the French New Wave, as well as his charming sketch on “la luxure” in The Seven Capital Sins, one of the long-forgotten portmanteau features of that era. My trouble with Demy began with The Umbrellas of Cherbourg and with its alleged charm. A completely sung movie with music by Michel Legrand, it can’t truly be called a musical, an opera, or even an operetta, though it borrows elements from all three. But to my taste at the time, it was a commercial sellout, positively cloying in its calculated charm — a sentimental festival of gaudy pastels (it was Demy’s first film in color) that cried out for mainstream acceptance, and even had the brass to feature an Esso station prominently in the final sequences, a case of unabashed product placement if there ever was one. When the movie was nominated for an Oscar –something that had never happened with any genuine New Wave pictures, only with corny pretenders like Black Orpheus, Sundays and Cybele, and A Man and a Woman – I concluded that the nomination only proved my point.

What a dunderhead I was. . . .

Or this:

A friend of mine once noted that The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is one of Demy’s five masterpieces, but the weakest of the five; the four others he cited were Lola, The Bay of the Angels (1962), The Young Girls of Rochefort (1967), and Une chambre a ville (1982). (Berthomé writes: “I don’t know if…The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is Jacques Demy’s most beautiful film. What I’m sure of is that it’s the most perfect, certainly the one that’s most faithful to the least of its intentions.”)

What an interesting definition of "perfect"!

Oh, and apparently one of the characters here had appeared in Demy's earlier film Lola, too.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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  • 3 years later...

For those in the LA area:

 

Janus Films presents THE UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG, opening March 14, 2014, at Landmark’s Nuart Theatre in Los Angeles for a one-week engagement.

A foreign movie can't be stupid.

-from the film
Armin

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  • 6 years later...

I wanted to bump this thread since Umbrellas is nominated for our top 100. In a separate thread, Evan wrote: "This one may be a bit of a stretch, but its simultaneous love letter and critique of traditional musical romances provides some beautiful reflection on how we respond to unexpected changes in our lives and how we value what we have."

 

I don't think this is a stretch at all. The film beautifully explores the spiritual themes of waiting and covenant. The main love theme sung translates to "I Will Wait for You." The couple makes a covenant with each other to be married as soon as he returns from war. One waits faithfully. The other does not. The rest of the film functions as both an ancient Greek tragedy and an ancient Greek comedy. It's a tragedy for the one refuses to wait and breaks the covenant. It's a comedy for the one keeps the covenant and waits. I will definitely be giving it a "6."

Edited by Ed Bertram
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