3 juin 2013

Even the actor Christopher Waltz, competition juror of the 66th Cannes Film Festival, didn’t want to miss this. And this is someone who sees non-stop films for 12 days straight; umbrellas too, with the opening of this festival shrouded in a deluge of rain. So there you have it, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is more than just a film. It’s a French national treasure, and with this in mind, it rightly deserved a digital makeover and restoration, just like the Arc de Triomphe or the Louvre.

It’s already fifty years since the original release of this film by Jacques Demy, with unforgettable music by Michel Legrand and starring the 19 year old Catherine Deneuve. The first film in the history of French cinema to be entirely in song, it won the Palme d’or at Cannes a year later. The film had a hard time coming to fruition with producers asking Demy and Legrand,  “why can’t you just shoot it in black and white with the actors speaking?” The pair, then in their thirties, wrote the whole film in the little apartment where Jacques Demy lived with his wife Agnès Varda, another great French director.

“I will wait for you…”

This was also a “family” film, with their children in the cast and Michel Legrand’s sister as the voice of Catherine Deneuve’s mother. We see it in the real backdrop of Cherbourg for a film which wanted to show the realities of the economic, social and political climate – the Algerian war, while telling the beautiful story of star-crossed lovers Deneuve and Nino Castelnuovo. The audience at the première left either singing or crying – until a fire engine hosed them copiously to make them open the umbrellas they had been given when they came in. Presented at Cannes on May 16th, in the pouring rain, the skies made their own homage to this film which must be seen or re-seen post-haste!

On screen on June, 19th

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