Kirsty Jones writes about Jacques Demy’s The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964). The film screens this Sunday as part of our Club Ciné strand, showcasing the best of French cinema at Picturehouse Central.
Directed by Jacques Demy in 1964, The Umbrellas of Cherboug‘s dialogue is entirely set to music, tying the film to more traditional entertainment such as theatre or opera. Coming after Demy’s Lola and The Young Girls of Rochefort, the three films share the same actors and characters, creating an informal trilogy.
Sharing some strong similarities with Damien Chazelle’s La La Land, it’s no wonder the film is returning to the big screen. While La La Land’s musical dialogue is not as consistent as in Demy’s film, it does share the sincerity and repeated compositions, melodies which recur, change and evolve as the film progresses. The looping melodies in both are hard to forget, and both films give a real sense of being immersed in a magical version of life. Both at the core share a slightly tragic tale. Slightly, in that life goes on. What both Umbrellas and La La Land teach us is that things don’t always go to plan which may be sad for a while, but ultimately we can still find happiness.
Catherine Deneuve and Nino Castelnuovo play the young couple at the centre of the film whose love is both hopeless and romantic. Demy captures the continuous motion of life ticking on around them, something which feels mundane compared to the vibrant young lovers and the shared world they create together. The plot ticks along nicely too as we catch up with them at particular chapters in their relationship. It is here that the film bares another similarity to La La Land in its titled division of time, and by the end of the film we have travelled six years into a future none of the characters could have initially anticipated.
At the time of its release, The Umbrellas Of Cherbourg had success both commercially and critically winning the Palme d’Or at the 1964 Cannes Film Festival. Its opening scenes are a revelation as we are introduced to Demy’s vision for the story. The use of colour throughout creates a sense of graceful joy and singular shots would be appreciated by today’s ‘Instagram Generation’. Umbrellas is a film that makes you smile in spite of tragedy. It is a classic that should be enjoyed on the big screen to do justice to the emotive ride it takes us on, every emotion writ large and in glorious widescreen technicolour.
Join us at Picturehouse Central at 1:00pm on Sun 15 January. Book tickets.