Category Archives: Foreign Musical Films

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg-1964

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg-1964

Director-Jacques Demy

Starring-Catherine Deneuve, Nino Castelnuovo

Scott’s Review #911

Reviewed June 17, 2019

Grade: A

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964), translated in French to mean Les Parapluies de Cherbourg, is a darling and daring film, unique like none other, consisting of all dialogue being sung recitative, like an opera or a stage musical. But wait there’s more. The film has an abundance of colorful and dazzling set designs that enrich the entire experience amid the lovely French culture and atmosphere. Interspersing one of the loveliest melodies imaginable and the result is a stoic treasure. The film received an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film and several other nominations.

The film is divided into three parts and moves along chronologically over the course of six years. Part One is The Departure, Part Two is The Absence and Part Three is The Return, each title representing a meaningful part of the story. Madame Emery (Anne Vernon) and her sixteen-year-old daughter Genevieve (Deneuve) own a struggling umbrella boutique in Cherbourg, France. Genevieve falls in love with Guy (Castelnuovo), a local mechanic, and they have sex the night before he is drafted to war, resulting in an unexpected pregnancy.

Madame Emery and Genevieve must decide what options are best when she is courted by wealthy jeweler Roland (Mark Michel), who is unaware of her pregnancy. Genevieve and Guy continue to write letters to each other as she softens towards Roland and a decision is made. An injured Guy returns from the war and events kick into high gear as the love birds face uncertain future amid surrounding barriers to their happiness.

To embrace the flavor and pacing of the film takes a few minutes of patience- like some viewers becoming accustomed to sub-titles in general, which the film also possesses, the singing is initially quite jarring but before long is to be embraced and appreciated for its unique nature. To stress the point, the film is not a standard musical, with songs mixed in with conventional dialogue, each line of the film is sung.

Deneuve, who with this role gained wider recognition beyond simply a French audience already familiar with her work, shines brightly in the lead role, never looking lovelier. The young lady, hardly appearing just sixteen (in truth she was twenty-one) carries the film with a chic and sophisticated style perfectly in tune with the 1960’s time-period. Her magnificent grace and elegance make her the primary reason to tune in as she sings her lines flawlessly and with unforced precision.

The story is unequivocally a basic one of girl meets boy, boy is drafted into the army, girl becomes pregnant, girl meets another suitor, boy returns home as conflict arises, but the magic is what director Jacques Demy does with the piece. Everyday life is presented in situational scenes adding substance and commonalities. Genevieve and Guy are in love and face external as well as internal obstacles. At the same time Madeleine (Ellen Farner), a quiet young woman who looks after Guy’s aunt, is secretly in love with Guy, as she adds a secret weapon to the film.

The audience cares for the characters, especially Genevieve and Guy, but the supporting characters add a robust quality worthy of mention. Anne Vernon is pivotal as Madame Emery, stylish and lavish, she is both concerned for her daughter’s well-being, while slyly seeing opportunities to save her boutique. Guy’s sickly Aunt Elise provides security and love to those who heed her advice and is remarkably played by actress Mireille Perrey.

The vivid colors and sets make The Umbrellas of Cherbourg tough to forget. Stark and florescent painted pinks, greens and blues, mainly on the walls, provide zest and flavor, a grand style all its own. With bright and crisp designs, the result is reminiscent of a lavish Hollywood musical, but with a cultured French twist. The result is perfect, and one can easily immerse themselves in both the singing and the artistry. The reoccurring main song “I Will Wait for You” (the main theme, also known as “Devant le garage”) is delicious and emotional as it appears in many poignant scenes.

For those seeking a charismatic and distinctive experience with nuances and a hint of experimentation will undoubtedly sink their teeth into this fruity and tasty treat. With French atmosphere for miles, the film is simply encompassing of all that is good and cultured about French film. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964) will entertain and unabashedly knock your socks off, with something grandiose and sizzling with flavor.

The Young Girls of Rochefort-1967

The Young Girls of Rochefort-1967

Director-Jacques Demy

Starring-Catherine Deneuve, George Chakiris

Scott’s Review #252

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Reviewed June 30, 2015

Grade: B

The Young Girls of Rochefort (Les Demoiselles de Rochefort) is a musical fantasy set in a small French town outside of Paris. The story focuses on a set of gorgeous twin sisters, Delphine and Solange, played by real life sisters Catherine Denueve and Francoise Dorleac, who yearn to escape their small town for the bright lights of Paris and hopes for romance in their lives. The twins can have any man they want, but enjoy the thrill and excitement of conquests and being chased and sought after by seemingly all available French men. They spend their spare time discussing and fretting over various loves.

The film is so French and pure musical fantasy and logic is really not the main focus. Much of it does not make much sense in fact, nor does it need to. It is pure fantasy. The film excels by being dreamlike, bright, and sunny. The vivid, bursting colors and lovely sets enhance the look of the film. In particular the coffee shop set is a dream. All of the central characters gravitate to the café for drinks, gossip, and song and dance. A great deal of the action takes place here, which is a major plus to the film. The Young Girls of Rochefort, which is made in 1967, is very state of the art in terms of art direction and colors.

The loose plot, which is not at all the reason to watch this film, is silly. The twins, longing for love, meet several men, all possible suitors, but at their true motivation is to get out of Rochefort and find real excitement in the big city of Paris. One cannot help but realize that the men are a means to an end for the girls. The heartfelt part of the story belongs to that of the twin’s mother, Yvonne, who also longs for love. Yvonne runs the café and still pines for a long lost love who she jilted because of a funny last name. She now regrets her decision and the audience roots for her to find happiness. She is a wholesome character whereas Delphine and Solange are selfish and are attempting to further their careers as musical artists.

My main criticism of the film is the casting of Gene Kelly as one of the love interests for the sisters. Far too old and well past his prime at this point, the casting just doesn’t work for me. Yes, he is an amazing dancer, but the age is too great to be believable.

In the end, the main reason to watch The Young Girls of Rochefort is to escape, let loose, and enjoy a bright, cheery, fantasy film. Certainly not to be analyzed, the film succeeds in providing good escapist cultured, French fare.