Monday, January 5, 2015

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg [1964]

So! For French class, we had to watch one movie En Francais, and that proved to be a very difficult task. There are a lot of movies I really like in other foreign languages, like Shall We Dance? (Japanese), Pan's Labyrinth (Spanish), and Rare Exports (Finnish!), but oddly enough, I've never seen a movie in French! And as I explored the options... none were jumping out at me. Yes, even Amelie didn't sound all that appealing to me (well, it did, but there is a lot of stuff in that movie I don't think the initial charm and creativity is worth sitting through for). So then there was this movie.
The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is a very different sort of movie. All of the dialogue in this movie is sung, like an opera. Even the most casual conversations and exchanges are sung to a melody. Pretty cool, n'est-ce pas? The film is also renowned for its beautiful, vibrant colors. Okay, some of the wallpapers in this movie are ghastly, but most of the colors are really pretty. XD
So, that was the appeal. The only qualm I had going in was that this movie is a romance, and I'm cautious about romance because there is always the risk of lover-centric-ness in these movies. You know, where absolutely NOTHING matters except the love of our two heroes! The love of other people is phoney and easily collapsed, but the two heroes share a love unbreakable!
But as it turns out, this movie is way better than that.
The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is about young Genevieve and her boyfriend Guy, who share a relatively innocent relationship that Genevieve's mother doesn't really approve of. A wrench gets thrown in the lovers' plans however, when Guy is drafted into the army. Unfortunately, the night before he leaves, Guy and Genevieve get up to some- ahem- shenanigans, and a few months later Genevieve discovers that she is pregnant. So she has a tough choice. Wait two years for Guy to come back, or save face by marrying the kind-hearted (and rich!) Roland Cassard.
There are some things in this movie that totally caught me off guard. In any other movie, the mom and Roland would both be nasty people who don't want Genevieve to be happy, blah, blah, blah. However, bossy as she is, Genevieve's mother is a decent person, and Roland doesn't want to force Genevieve into something she doesn't want to do. You can see that he is a kind man who sincerely wants her to be happy. I'd elaborate on the whole Roland/Genevieve thing, but I don't want to give away spoilers. This movie is one that you really don't want spoiled, because it kind of kills the ending.
There are some flaws. I know that it's supposed to show that Genevieve is immature and has growing up to do, but in the beginning of the movie, her impetuous 'We're in love and you can't stop us!' attitude got on my nerves a little bit. Only a little bit. But still. And I have a few qualms about something that happens later in the movie, but yeah. Rule of Spoilers dictates that I can't elaborate on that. Meh.
So! As a musical film, the one of the most important things to get right is of course, the music! I recently listened to Oliver!, and really just didn't like it. The reason? The drab score! It doesn't matter if the story is good and the character arcs are touching. If the score is lack-luster and only has one or two songs that are really appealing, then it's not going to be much fun to watch said musical. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg on the other hand, has a very good score. While there are not strict 'songs', since the lyrics are just conversations and such, the little tunes are very nice, and there is one that is just plain amazing. But yes, there are a few moments where it is glaringly obvious that it's the 60's. Bongo drums, wee!! XD
The main melody, which is relatively famous, is a real masterpiece. I can't even describe it, just watch the opening credits down there and you'll see what I mean. It's gorgeous, and pops up many times in the movie. :)
Let's see, what else... I really liked the cinematography, especially the way the opening credits were shot from above. And the ending. I would like to go into details, but that's for maybe another post someday, because I really don't want to give it away. But it's a good ending.

The Verdict: A-
The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is a movie about two completely normal people, and the choices they make and how that shapes their future lives for better or worse. With the ending especially, there seems to be the theme that even if things don't go the way you planned, it's not the end of the world. I think that this movie is quite the piece of art. It's a little different, and maybe hard for some people to get used to, but it's a lovely little movie that if you like musicals and French stuff, you probably will appreciate. :)

Content Advisory: There is one instance of extramarital sex, but nothing is shown. The camera cuts away as soon as they start to kiss. And later, a dude visits a seedy bar and spends the night with a hooker (yeah, I'm not a fan of that part). Again, nothing explicit is seen, but it's quite clear what was going on.

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