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The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (Jacques Demy) 1964

    I am sure that I'm in the minority here, but I felt that Jacques Demy's Palm D'Or winning musical The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is not a masterpiece. The film is likable enough, and it certainly looks decent, but the score borders on tuneless sometimes and there's little in the way of plot. Demy's own The Young Girls of Rochefort,  made three years later, surpasses this film in set design, plot, choreography, and jour d' vie. Perhaps it's that the film reaches for an operatic sense of loss that it can't quite grasp, or perhaps it's because the mediums of opera and film are quite different (though Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rogue! creates a more likable fusion of the two than this does.) but the film simply doesn't work as well as it should, and as the novelty wears off, the film's already short running time (87 minutes) begins to feel far too long.

    This isn't to suggest that it's an utter failure. The majority of the film works to a degree. Nino Castelnuovo and Catherine Deneuve are just about the most attractive couple in cinema (outside maybe Ewan and Nicole.) They have a lot of genuine chemistry in their scenes together, which is impressive since they never are seen actually speaking to each other (all of the film's dialogue is sung). The odd thing is that the film, despite it's status as a musical never really achieves some of the highs that we take for granted in the genre. The film's titles feature some tentative choreography featuring umbrella holding dancers, but the amount of motion contained in the film quickly shrinks. I can appreciate the way the film works the real world into the musical (the hero goes off to war, people die, finances play a role in life decisions), but I simply feel that everything that Demy does here, he does better in his next film.

***