Good Golly, Mme Brolly

Les Parapluies de Cherbourg (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Jacques Demy, 1964)

I felt sure I’d seen this, as it’s the thought of thing Channel 4 would show on a Thursday or Sunday night in the late 1980s, but apparently not. It clearly fed into La La Land, but has more stomachable politics.

The main thing to note that there is nobody called Les in the film; instead we have car mechanic as Guy Foucher (Nico Castelnuovo), head over heels in love with Geneviève Emery (Catherine Deneuve), daughter of a single mother owner of an umbrella shop in Cherbourg. As they plan to marry, we are expecting things to go poise-shaped, and this comes in the form of him being called up for military service in Algiers. They promise to wake for each other, but she is pregnant.

You’d probably have a heart of stone not to hope they can make it work, but she does have a plan b in the wings and even a not very alert viewer should spot who her rival may turn out to be.

But the heart of the film consists of three artistic decisions: the bright colours of the set design and costumes, the moving long takes and the (dubbed) sung through dialogue. Indeed, the film is a musical, and it risks being a little relentless at times. The jazz inflections are cool, but for my taste the volume was a little loud.


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