The Umbrellas of Cherbourg

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(1964, directed by Jacques Demy)

- inducted 2016 –

“Rain and tears are the same
But in the sun you've got to play the game
When you cry in winter time
You can pretend it's nothing but the rain

“No, the above lyrics aren’t lifted from any of the Michel Legrand music featured in Jacques Demy’s 1964 Palme D’or-winning musical. (They’re from Demis Roussos’s ‘Rain and Tears,’ a song that was memorably used much later, in another film about unrequited love, Hou Hsiao-hsien’s Three Times). Regardless, these words have a way of capturing something unique about The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, and specifically its expression of emotion through a sense of the elemental. After all, this is a film that opens on pouring rain and closes with falling snow; that begins with a playful couple in the springtime of their love and ends in a figurative and literal winter, with tears in the lovers’ hearts if not their eyes. It’s a film about contrasts as bold as those between the seasons it cycles through; as bold as the color palette Demy favors.

“It’s set in France, during wartime, as young men are drafted to fight in Algeria—and yet, everyone sings, and for a long time they sing with a doggedly upbeat optimism. This intensifies the film’s sense of tragedy, as the best laid plans are dashed by unforeseen interference—like a rained-out wedding date. But there’s a deeper meaning still to Demy’s romantic vision, and it has to do with the nature of beauty itself. ‘Maybe happiness makes me sad,’ says one of the film’s wise older characters, a foreshadowing of heartache at the margins, And yet her intent is not to afflict pessimism on her lovestruck nephew but to impart an idea of emotional reflexivity.

“The final scene of The Umbrellas of Cherbourg itself proves this sentiment: A wistful, snow-swept goodbye that’s both unbearably sad, but that also offers a moment of catharsis, of healing and relief. When you cry in wintertime, it’s the first sign of the thaw that brings spring.”

~ Sam C. Mac

Original title: Les Parapluies de Cherbourg Principal cast: Catherine Deneuve, Nino Castelnuovo, Anne Vernon, Marc Michel, Ellen Farmer, Mireille Perrey, Jean Champion, Pierre Caden, Jean-Pierre Dorat, Bernard Fradet, Michel Benoist, Philippe Dumat, Dorothée Blanck, Jane Carat, Harald Wolff
Scenario and dialogue by Jacques Demy
Produced by Mag Bodard, Gilbert de Goldschmidt (uncredited), Pierre Lazareff (uncredited)
Cinematography by Jean Rabier
Production design by Bernard Evein
Costume design by Jacques Moreau
Film editing by Anne-Marie Cotret, Monique Teisseire
Music by Michel Legrand
Songs by Jacques Demy and Michel Legrand (uncredited)
Makeup artist: Christine Fornelli
Principal singing voices: Danielle Licari, José Bartel, Christiane Legrand, Georges Blaness, Claudine Meunier, Claire Leclerc, with uncredited vocal contributions by Jacques Demy and Michel Legrand
Coordinator of 2013 restored version: Agnès Varda

Duration: 91 minutes
Languages: French
Filmed in color (Eastmancolor)
Sound mix: Mono
Cinematographic process: Spherical
Aspect ratio: 1.66:1
Printed film format: 35mm

Produced by Parc Film, Madeleine Films, Beta Film
Released in USA by Landau Releasing Organization (LRO)
Premiered in France on 19 February 1964
USA release date: 16 December 1964

Awards and honors:
- Cannes Film Festival, 1964: Palme d’Or (won)
- Cannes Film Festival, 1964: Technical Grand Prize (won)
- Cannes Film Festival, 1964: OCIC Award (won)
- Prix Louis Delluc, 1963 (won)
- French Syndicate of Film Critics, 1965: Best Film (won)
- Academy Awards (USA), 1964: Best Foreign Language Film, France (nominated)
- Academy Awards (USA), 1965: Best Writing, Story and Screenplay – Written Directly For the Screen (nominated)
- Academy Awards (USA), 1965: Best Music – Original Song, “I Will Wait For You” (nominated)
- Academy Awards (USA), 1965: Best Music, Score – Substantially Original (nominated)
- Academy Awards (USA), 1965: Best Music, Scoring of Music – Adaptation or Treatment (nominated)
- Golden Globes, 1965: Best Foreign-Language Film (nominated)