An angelically beautiful Catherine Deneuve was launched into stardom by this glorious musical heart-tugger from Jacques Demy. She plays an umbrella-shop owner’s delicate daughter, glowing with first love for a handsome garage mechanic, played by Nino Castelnuovo. When the boy is shipped off to fight in Algeria, the two lovers must grow up quickly. Exquisitely designed in a kaleidoscope of colors, and told entirely through the lilting songs of the great composer Michel Legrand, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is one of the most revered and unorthodox movie musicals of all time.
The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is Jacques Demy's third film and arguably his best. The film plays out like an opera with every piece of dialogue being sung to Michel Legrand's impressive score. The film is even set up like an opera, in three different Acts. This is Demy's first film in color, and it is bright and vibrant throughout. It's very beautiful to look at. Again, this musical film is about the love of two people that doesn't end up like you'd think it will. It's also quite emotional in select scenes, which a couple of them will be forever imprinted in my brain.
The film centers around a young woman named Genevieve (Catherine Deneuve), who works at her mother's umbrella shop in the town of Cherbourg in the 1950s. A young man by the name of Guy (Nino Castelnuovo), is an auto mechanic who is very much in love with the beautiful Genevieve, and much to his fortune, she, in turn, loves him. But Genevieve's mother believes that she deserves more than just a mechanic, but the two profess their love for one another and vow to stay together.
Unfortunately, Guy is drafted in the Algerian war and set to leave to fight, but the night before he goes, the two promise each other they will stay together and the two have sex. There is a scene here where Genevieve is waving goodbye to Guy on the train, and it is so heartbreaking, I dare you not to shed a tear. Genevieve writes to Guy often, but Guy rarely responds if it all, and Genevieve finally tells her mother that she is pregnant and that Guy is the father. Suddenly, in walks in Roland, the same character from Lola, who falls in love with Genevieve. Roland is now very wealthy, and Genevieve's mother sees this as an opportunity for her daughter to be happy and taken care of.
Since Genevieve hasn't heard from Guy, she reluctantly marries Roland, always thinking she made a bad choice. But Roland is overjoyed and is even excited about taking care of another man's child for her. Some time passes on, and Guy shows up back in town, somewhat injured. He finds out that his sick aunt has passed away from her beautiful caretaker Madeleine (Ellen Farner), who has always been in love with Guy. He also finds out that Genevieve is now married and that the Umbrella shop has closed. Maybe due to his bad luck, Guy ends up marrying Madeleine and they have a kid together. He gets his life in order and becomes the successful owner of a gas station. But one day a fancy car drives up and out walks a wealthy and beautiful Genevieve and the two see they have two kids who end up having the same name.
Demy captures the untimely love of these two people perfectly. It reminded me of Kevin Arnold and Winnie Cooper's relationship from The Wonder Years, as the two always loved each other, but never ended up together. Even though Genevieve and Guy are totally happy with their lives, it feels like a tragedy when you witnessed their love for each other earlier in the film. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is truly a great movie. So much so that in a season of AMC's Mad Men, Don Draper and Lane Pryce talk about seeing it in the theater.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
The Umbrellas of Cherbourg comes with a 50GB Blu-ray Disc from Criterion and is Region A Locked. There is a Criterion booklet with an essay by Jim Ridley, along with information on the crew and technical information on the film. The disc is housed in a hard clear, plastic case with spine #716.
The Umbrellas of Cherbourg comes with an excellent 1080p HD transfer presented in 1.85:1 aspect ratio. This video presentation looks phenomenal. According to the Criterion booklet, this release used the same 2K restoration job from the Blu-ray that came out in France last year and everything was supervised by Mathieu Demy. The colors here simply pop and look the best that they ever have since the film came out.
These colors have been re-balanced and well-saturated to give the film a natural and bright color. The detail is also quite impressive throughout that gives the image depth and reveals fine detail in the actor's faces and in their costumes. There is a very nice layer of grain to give the film a good filmic look, which keeps the picture looking natural and organic. Stability is great, skin tones are natural, and the black levels are deep and inky. All of the major warps, debris, dirt, and stains have been removed, giving this video presentation very high marks.
This release comes with a great lossless DTS-HD 5.1 audio mix in French with excellent English subtitles. The dialogue is always crystal clear and easy to follow. This track has great depth and is well balanced throughout. The musical numbers simply shine here and every voice is well balanced and in harmony with the others.
The music is phenomenal and lights up the rear speakers whenever a song starts to play. The LFE is great and the dynamic range is quite wide. There were no instances of any pops, cracks or hissing to speak of, giving this audio presentation great marks.
Once Upon a Time... The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (HD, 55 mins.) - This is a great 2008 documentary by Marie Genin and Serge July that centers around the production of the Demy film. There are archival interviews with Demy himself included here along with the rest of the crew and the talk about making the film. Great stuff here.
Rodney Hill (HD, 23 mins.) - Here is a new interview with film scholar Rodney Hill as he discusses New Wave and traditional French cinema as he focuses it on Demy's film. He even dives into how Demy's style of directing changed over the years. This interview was conducted in 2014.
Cinepanorama (HD, 12 mins.) - On the French program 'Cinepanorama' in 1964, Demy himself along with his composer Michel Legrand discuss how the film started and how they made the movie and the unique score.
Michel Legrand at the National Film Theatre (HD, 27 mins.) - Here is an audio interview from 1991 with composer Michel Legrand as he discusses his career, style, and friendship with Demy.
Catherine Deneuve at the National Film Theatre (HD, 12 mins.) - Here is an audio interview from 1983 with actress Catherine Deneuve as she discusses her career and work with Demy.
Restoration Demonstration (HD, 7 mins.) - Here is look at the restoration process for the film as we get to see how it was done with the restorers and producers talking about how the process is done.
Trailer (HD, 2 mins.) - Here is the trailer for the restored film.
Criterion Booklet - Here is a Criterion booklet with technical information, cast and crew information, and an essay on the film by Jim Ridley.
The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is a fantastic film and Criterion knocked it out of the park with this one. The video and audio presentations are outstanding with some great extras. This is an excellent edition to the collection and is Highly Recommended!
Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of Dunkirk on Blu-ray. This post features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, and Final Thoughts sections.