158 of 163 people found the following review helpful
on February 20, 1998
This could be the most beautiful, unique, romantic movie ever made. Every bit of dialogue is sung (but there are no "musical" numbers), and it's filmed in VIVID pastels, beautifully restored in this print (the film was originally released in 1964, and was the Cannes Film Festival Grand Prize winner). In French, with English subtitles, Letterbox (1.66:1, so it looks fine even on a small TV). Young girl (Catherine Deneuve, radiant in her first film) who works for her mother in an umbrella shop, "Les Parapluies de Cherbourg" - hence the title - and young garage mechanic (Nino Castelnuovo) swear their undying love for one another, he goes off to war, she finds herself pregnant, and she must make some decisions which will forever affect the lives of at least four people. Underneath its beautiful and lighthearted look and feel is a very serious and moving story. The entire word-for-word/song-for-song soundtrack/dialogue is also available on 2 audio CDs - Les Parapluies de Cherbourg - Sony ISBN 7464626782. Directed by Jacques Demy, music by Michel Legrand. Several of the musical themes have entered into the cultural consciousness, and if you've never seen this movie before, when you watch it you may experience a pleasant sense of recognition, i.e., "So that's where that song came from!" You'll love it! END
72 of 74 people found the following review helpful
There really isn't another film quite like THE UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG. For instance, every line of dialogue in the movie is sung, yet apart from the heartbreakingly beautiful "I Will Wait for You," there are no songs. So, is it a musical? In form it seems more like an operetta. Musically, the dialogue is loosely organized, though certain musical themes are repeated often, and it lightly sung, none of the performers coming across as highly trained professional singers. Overall, the music, despite the presence of only one song, is entrancing.
As fine as the music is, I actually found the film to be more riveting on a purely visual level. For instance, inn scene after scene, I found myself focusing on the art design rather than the music. Demy frames most of his shots against backgrounds of more or less solid and striking colors--green walls, blue-stripped wallpaper, unusually painted building. Demy also employs a host of subtle camera angles and techniques. The film is unquestionably as much for the eyes as for the ears.
Most members of the cast were unknown to me, except, of course, for the surreally beautiful Catherine Deneuve, who was nineteen during most of the production of the film. She exudes star quality throughout. But none of the performers fails at all in their roles, though none of the others was the budding star that she was. One thing that struck me about all of the characters was that while the tale told is essentially a tragic one--or at least a bittersweet one--there are really no bad guys. Marc Michel, for instance, who plays Deneuve's wealthy suitor Roland Cassard, is a thoroughly likable person, even admirable. She clearly doesn't love him, but in no conceivable sense is he a bad person. Nino Castelnuovo's character Guy Foucher, for whom Deneuve's Geneviève Emery has asserted she "wait forever" turns out to be an inconstant correspondent, but apart from that he does nothing actively unkind to Geneviève. Geneviève's mother might push her towards Roland and away from Guy, but she is clearly motivated by a love of her daughter. The movie could have been subtitled: "A Tragedy with No Villains." The film is about love, but it is sadly not a love story. In a way, it deconstructs the kind of romantic myths that dominates the musical genre. This is the anti-Disney version of the possibility of eternal love.
51 of 52 people found the following review helpful
on July 12, 2000
Up until 6 months ago, I had never heard of "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg." My mom used to hum a couple of tunes from this French musical, but I never made the connection. However, I came across the DVD of this classic musical a bit back while searching for a present for my mother, and I quickly fell in love with this musical. It is different from most musicals, as it is (1) French, and (2) sung the whole way through. All the "dialogue" is sung in the recitative manner of opera music and lead so naturally into the actual songs that you really can't tell the difference. The story itself concerns the bittersweet love between the young daughter (Catherine Deneuve) of a shopkeeper and a young man who learns shortly that he has been drafted to join the French army.
It is a beautiful story told simply and effectively by one of the French New Wave directors, Jacques Demy. As I understand it, he made a few more musicals starring Catherine Deneuve (The Young Girls of Rochefort, Donkeyskin), but this film was his most popular musical. For a long time, this film was considered "lost" due to deterioration of the film stock, its vivid colors reduced to pale shadows of its original glorious hues. However, thanks to recovery of an alternate negative that retained the original colors, the film was abled to be restored to its former brilliance. This restored version of the film is what is available currently on DVD.
Truthfully, it looks quite fantastic. The colors are briliant enough to rival the Hollywood Technicolor process, and the sound is clean. I am glad I bought this DVD, and it has quickly become one of my favorite musicals.
I only have a few problems with the DVD itself. First, subtitles are only in English. I would have liked to have seen French subtitles as well, but such was not the case. Also, the film transfer gets a little blocky and pixelated here and there; I understand that Fox/Lorber has a questionable on/off reputation with their DVDs, and I wish they could have been just a tad bit more careful with this classic. This marred an otherwise beautiful restoration effort. Lastly, I wished there were more chapter marks. Some of the best songs lie no where close to any of the chapter marks and thus require either bookmarking or fast-forwarding. Not a big concern, but just a little inconvenient.
However, this is still an excellent film, and I would HIGHLY recommend it to any lovers of musicals! Purchase/rent/watch this film without delay! And a note to Fox/Lorber - how about releasing "The Young Girls of Rochefort" out on DVD? I know it was somewhat restored as well and had a limited re-release; this would be an excellent companion piece to Umbrellas of Cherbourg!
32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
on October 8, 2005
I will not bother to outline why everyone with the remotest interest in the art of cinema should see this film. You can see the movie's imdb.com page for that.
What I will comment on is the quality of the DVD transfer:
- Sound is not great, but it is much better than the supposedly superior French release
- Image quality is significantly worse than the French release
There is no satisfactory DVD version of this movie at present, but this one (Koch) is probably the best one around.
44 of 50 people found the following review helpful
Les Parapluies de Cherbourg is one of the most beautiful movies ever made with an enchanting and haunting score by Michel Le Grande, and totally focused, sharp and creative direction by Jacques Demy. Catherine Deneuve gives a fine performance in pinkish white makeup with her blonde hair pulled away from her famous face, at twenty playing a seventeen-year-old shopkeeper's daughter who falls in love with a garage mechanic. He is called away to the war in Algeria after making her pregnant. Will she wait for him as the award-winning song proclaims? Will their love endure the long separation?
All the dialogue is sung. The script is terse with nothing extraneous to the bittersweet story. Because the dialogue is stripped to the barest essentials, the singing seems natural and enhances the dream-like quality established early with the rain falling on the umbrellas and the cobblestone streets of the seacoast town. The sets are splashed in vivid color. Everything is superficially romantic, but the events are the starkest realism.
When a young girl is forced to choose between love and security, which does she choose? It depends on the circumstances, and sometimes circumstances and the passage of time can change her heart.
I was a teenager in France when this was made in the sixties. The backdrops of the white Esso gas station, the red and yellow passenger train cars, the bouffant hair styles on the girls, their eyes heavily made up with mascara and black eyeliner, the ubiquitous bicycles and the little French "cigarette roller" cars all brought back vivid memories of youth as did the musical score.
A question: what ever happened to the "other" girl, Ellen Farner who played Madeleine? To be honest I found her more attractive than Deneuve who of course went on to become a great star and an acclaimed international beauty. Farner was never heard from again.
Some scenes made more effective by their simplicity: When Genevieve (Deneuve) returns home after a late evening with Guy, her mother (Anne Vernon) surveys her daughter and exclaims, "What have you done?" Genevieve retorts sharply, "Mama!" and it is clear what she has done. Also, as Guy is going off to the army Madeleine arrives upon the scene as he is saying good-bye to his stepmother who is ill. They exchange glances that reveal Madeleine's love for him. And then she sings out softly in the heartfelt regret of parting, "Adieu, Guy." We know these are not the last words that will pass between them. Additionally, the brief, beautifully structured, final scene at the shiny new Esso gas station is not to be forgotten.
The scenes with Roland Cassard (Marc Michel), the suave, traveling man of means who sells Madame Emery's jewelry so she can pay the taxes on her umbrella shop, are nicely staged so that we can see at a glance that he is enormously taken with Guinevere and that the mother will do everything possible to further his case. It is agreeable for those identifying with Guinevere that Roland is not only well off financially, but is as handsome as the garage mechanic. But will he still want her when he learns that she is pregnant with another man's child?
Jacques Demy who also wrote the script is to be commended for the effortless pace and tight focus of this romantic tale of star crossed lovers. I wish every director had such an ability to cut the extraneous and concentrate on the essentials without intrusion. The tale is an atmospheric tour de force of love lost and gained, of bourgeois values triumphant.
This might be a bit precious for some, but upon seeing this for the third time, I can tell you I was enchanted anew.
--Dennis Littrell, author of "Cut to the Chaise Lounge or I Can't Believe I Swallowed the Remote!"
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on April 7, 2004
If you love film, this is a DVD you must own, and if you already own the old version this is one case where upgrading is an absolute necessity, the difference is staggering.
I've never seen a DVD that was more of an improvement over a previous release. The colors explode off the screen from this razor sharp anamorphic transfer, which finally presents the film in its original aspect ratio.
If you have the old Fox Lorber disc, find the nearest bonfire or trash compactor, because that's the only place suitable for it.
I took some comparison captures of the two discs on my computer and the results are astonishing. The old disc swears it's from the 1994 restored version, but I find that hard to believe. The colors are faded beyond belief and there's a deep blue tint to the whole film that's instantly visible when you compare it to this new Koch Lorber version.
In addition, the old Fox Lorber DVD suffered from a problem common to videos of European films. In Europe they use the PAL color system for their televisions rather than NTSC, which we use here. PAL has higher resolution, but runs at a different speed and requires films to be sped up by 4% to match it.
There's a long technical explanation, but basically they found a way around this for NTSC. The end result is that films in PAL are about five minutes shorter than they should be. There's nothing missing they're just moving at a higher speed than intended, causing everything to move ever so slightly faster and voices and music to go to a higher pitch.
The old DVD was from a PAL master, so it was 1hr 27 mins long and had the flicker in the image that usually results from a PAL to NTSC conversion.
The new DVD is a true NTSC version, so you finally get to see Umbrellas at its proper length of 1hr 32mins. Again, there are no restored scenes or anything, it's merely being run at the correct speed at last. Still, that means five extra minutes of eye-popping color, glorious music and Catherine Deneuve
Koch Lorber deserves major, enormous, gigantic congratulations for finally doing right by this cinema classic and giving it the DVD it deserves. Bravo!
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on December 4, 2001
'The Umbrellas of Cherbourg' ("Les Parapluies de Cherbourg") may well be one of the three most important French films ever made. The other two positions would probably go to 'Les enfants du Paradis' ("The Children of Paradise") and 'La Belle Verte' ("The Beautiful Green"). French critics unanimously agree that its one of the most telling remnants of the 1960s, and the fact that it made Catherine Deneuve a star is of little consequece when you look at the picture as a whole - think of it as the French equivalent to The Beatles' 'Magical Mystery Tour', at least in terms of spirit.
Why is this little-seen gem one of the best examples of superior motion picture-making? Well, for one, not one word of dialogue is spoken. Everything is in the form of song. While this might repel audiences who aren't exactly enthralled by Andrew Lloyd Webber or a night out at the opera, this is definitely not a soppy Italian-style operetta with everyone grieving all around. On the other hand, what we are treated to is a timely romantic tale, both spiritual and grave in its' treatment.
The story is pretty straightforward. Catherine and Nino Castelnuovo are lovers - Catherine owns an umbrella shop with her mother, and Nino is a car repair-man at the local garage. When he gets called away for the war (I love how this film managed to side-step any possible political statement, and instead focusses on the lovely curtains in Catherine's bedroom) our heroine finds herself pregnant.
The rest of the story is extremely compelling. It succeeds where even a film like 'Dancer in the Dark' failed. That film attempted to whip its' audience into a weeping frenzy by going all out for the punch - this one manages to do so with the utmost simplicity, and triumphs when its' time comes. And the music is instantly reminiscent of the beauty of the era.
Everyone probably knows how this film ends - our starcrossed lovers never do end up together. In fact, Catherine marries a man who is willing to 'take her in', and Nino fathers his own child and marries another woman. All this because of a bitter miscommunication that forms the crux of the film. I love this movie because it never pretends to be something its not, and no-one is perfect. Its' heroine gets pregnant out of wedlock, and the hero is never shown to be a totally 'moral' man (in one scene, he pays for a sexual encounter). But with the French, its not about morality, but matters of the heart, be it torrid or tame, and this is where 'The Umbrellas of Cherbourg' towers the most.
There are two gutwrenching scenes in this film. One is where Jacques has to leave for the war, and the two lovers say goodbye at the train station. The other, of course, is the chilling, colder-than-ice climax that would probably have you burst into tears and remember your past loves lost. Quite frankly, I have never sat through a film where the ending runs quite unspectaculary, but leaves you totally shaken.
I bought this film on DVD recently and am touched to discover how this movie stands up to the test of time. Perhaps more poignant and relevant now in a world gone mad, I seriously recommend you get this film to bring back the ideals of goodness, purity and the rarity that is young love, back into your life. The DVD itself is a splendid little piece. There are no real extras, but there are English subtitles. The film is divided by date, and the chapters (there are nine) corelate to the dates. The only thing that saddened me is that there was no way to view the film as it was originally created - in three parts. But to have this movie on DVD itself is a boon, so I won't go on.
There is also a 're-issue' ad for when the movie was re-released in 1992. This ad only features the sad train station sequence, with the epic score playing in the background. There are also cast filmographies (Deneuve laters returned to do the 'sequel' to this movie, entitled 'The Young Girls of Rochefort', while Nino never really gained star status - this film, alongwith 1962's 'Escapade in Florence' remains his best works).
I liked how the DVD was, like the movie, simple and smart. There is a 'restoration' section on the DVD, but this is just a text document that explains how Jacques Demy's widow Agnes supervised the recreation process. Its a marvel that Jacques had the good sense to save this film on different mediums back in the 60s. If not, we would never get to see this edition.
The soundtrack to this film is also notorious. There are people in France, especially the '60s lot, who know the entire film word-for-word. A brilliant exercise, and I recommend that you let your children do the same. I never knew that there was a film built upon this music until much later in my life - indeed, when you hear the opening strains of the score, you'll be able to instantly recognize it, but will fail to place it. If you're shopping on Amazon, I would highly recommend that you also pick up the rare 2-CD soundtrack set - its really worth it.
Get this for yourself, and your children. "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg" is one of those rare instances where you rediscover how wonderful it was to be in love, and how sometimes time sweeps away and erases with it the possibilities of different destinies, different outcomes. It will make you reexamine your life and make you wonder where you had lost yourself down this long road we call life. And any film that can do that, is a top notch effort in my book.
Epic, touching, and never boring, 'The Umbrellas of Cherbourg' is one of the true classics of the twentieth century. I highly recommend this to anyone who has a heart.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on March 15, 2006
When I was young I found the picture beautyfull.I was 15 when I saw the film in the cinema.Now I,m much older ,but the film is as young and fresh as ever.It,s not oldfashioned.I,ve a soundtrack too,but seeing the picture nowadays it,fantastic.For me it is a one and only picture in it,s kind.Beautifull,see it and you will be the same fan as me.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on March 14, 1999
I first saw this film with my high school girlfriend when I was about 16, and thought I'd take another look. WOW! What a beautiful film to look at, listen to, and argue about. Do we only have one love of our life? What role does fate play? What might have happened if Guy had been a more frequent letter writer? And what was director Demy really trying to say to us?
The ending is both powerful and teary and very, very French, i.e. thoughtful and a little ambiguous. I cannot get the song "I Will Wait For You" out of my head (why would anyone want to?!) This film will stay with me for at least another 25 years. I'm going to watch it again tonight with my wife and teenage daughter (a great way to practice her French!). A real beauty!
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on May 7, 2004
The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is a fantastic film with a deceptively simple story, outrageous colors, and beautiful music (especially the tune "I Will Wait For You" played during the opening and ending). Fine performances from the cast as well, and all the dialogue is sung. As far as DVD transfers are concerned this looks better and as flawless as you can expect and DVD collectors shouldn't pass up the new Koch Lorber edition of this wonderful movie.