A long unseen triumph in cinematic beauty, Jacques Demy’s 1964 Cannes Film Festival Grand Prize Winner is available for the first time in this digitally remastered fully restored version. Catherine Deneuve stars in this ageless fairytale of doomed love. The restoration, long thought impossible due to faded prints, is now brought to you as a loving tribute.
eyelights: the good-looking cast. the sweeping musical arrangements. the bittersweet ending.
eyesores: EVERY SINGLE DIALOGUE IS SUNG. the trite plot. the poor music editing.
‘Les Parapluies de Cherbourg’ is a French-German co-production that is part of a trilogy by Jacques Demy. Released in 1963, it was a huge success commercially and critically, being nominated for multiple awards and even winning the Palme d’Or at the 1964 Cannes Festival. It also made a star out of Catherine Deneuve.
The film is set from 1957 to 1963 and revolves around a young couple, Guy and Geneviève who are making plans for the future. Unfortunately, he’ll be conscripted to the war in Algeria, and she’ll find herself under much pressure to wed a wealthy suitor by her mother. Guy will return from the war to a home life transformed.
I’ll make this one brief. I had no idea this was part of a trilogy of sorts. I had no idea that ‘Lola’ came beforehand (its only connection is the character of Roland, the second other suitor), but I knew that ‘Les Demoiselles de Rochefort’ came after it. Its only connection appeared to be Demy and Deneuve, so it’s a tenuous trilogy.
This is EXACTLY the kind of musical that I bloody despise: every single word uttered in this movie is sung. or half-sung, as the case may be (because it’s virtually impossible to create catchy melodies out of typical dialogues). That’s why musicals can be so hard to churn out, because you have to bridge the two into some sort of seamless wonder.
The actors were forced in a position of half-acting and half-singing and, thus, were not doing either particularly well. I almost wished the film had been overdubbed with standard dialogue, but you can’t because some of the facial expressions are exaggerated enough that it wouldn’t work. It doesn’t matter: the script is so predictable that I couldn’t pretend to care.
To make matters worse, the music editing was extremely abrupt. The moment a scene changed, so did the music. That means that most tracks never actually ended – they were bludgeoned out of existence. Too bad, too, because the orchestral arrangements were luscious. It have to give credit to Michel Legrand for providing me with the only interesting bit of the film.
Beyond that, there’s really no reason to watch this picture. Even as a musical, it’s constructed relatively poorly, and it doesn’t have any show-stopping numbers to make up for it. There’s no extravaganza – it’s a traditional film but with all the dialogues sung instead of spoken (shoot me now!). Even for fans of musicals, this can’t possibly be stellar.
It was really painful for me to watch this; I did it in two sittings. I stuck through it, although I considered watching it in three parts. I would rate this a 3.5, personally. I hated this. But I tried to be as objective as possible and gave it a 6.0 because I suspect that some people will like it. You just have to know what you’re getting into, is all.
Date of viewing: May 11, 2014