Young Love in Technicolor: The Umbrellas of Cherbourg
Released in 1964, the Umbrellas of Cherbourg (Les Parapluies de Cherbourg) is a seminal, French New Wave masterpiece that chronicles young love, change, chance, and loss. I was a bit skeptical when I learned the film was a musical; despite being a cinephile, I've never cared for the genre. But, I kept an open mind (because I absolutely adore French films) and was enraptured by the breathtaking, yet, melancholy opening credit sequence that set the tone for the rest of the feature.
Set in the seaside city of Cherbourg, France, the film follows the whirlwind romance of 17-year old Genevieve (Catherine Deneuve) and 20-year old Guy (Nino Castelnuovo). The inseparable pair pledge their life-long devotion to one another, until a simple twist of fate changes their lives and relationship forever. The stunning cinematography, beautiful colors, compelling writing, and first-rate acting/singing performances elevates the Umbrellas of Cherbourg above the standard, melodramatic fare and kept me riveted me until the film's bittersweet coda.
Starring Catherine Deneuve and Nino Castlenuovo, this odd and quirky classic is the second feature in Jacques Demy's "romantic trilogy." I recommend watching the preceding film, Lola, if possible, as it adds a layer of depth to the Umbrellas of Cherbourg's plot and helps the viewer appreciate one of the most unique flashback sequences in cinematic history.
Vibrant color blocking, lace veils, fur coats, yellow bicycles, and a vintage Mercedes Benz sedan are a small sample of the eye candy prominently featured in the film. The brilliant splashes of color are visually arresting, and they become even more striking as the characters' outfits match the wallpaper in various scenes. From stylish dresses, slim-fit rain coats, and pastel dress shirts, to sailor suits, pleated skirts, and one of the most striking postman hats ever captured on film, the Umbrellas of Cherbourg serves up a wealth of fashion ideas for women and men.