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The Umbrellas of Cherbourg
Directed by Jacques Demy
Produced by Mag Bodard
Written by Jacques Demy
Starring Catherine Deneuve
Nino Castelnuovo
Music by Michel Legrand
Cinematography Jean Rabier
Editing by Anne-Marie Cotret
Monique Teisseire
Distributed by The Criterion Collection (US VHS and laserdisc)
Koch-Lorber Films (US DVD)
Release date(s) February 19, 1964 (1964-02-19) (France)
15 December 1964 (U.S.)
Running time 91 min.
Language French

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (French: Les Parapluies de Cherbourg) is a 1964 musical film. It was directed by Jacques Demy, and stars Catherine Deneuve and Nino Castelnuovo. The music was written by Michel Legrand. The film dialogue is all sung as recitative, even the most casual conversation.

Umbrellas is the middle film in an informal "romantic trilogy" of Demy films that share some of the same actors, characters and overall look; it comes after Lola (1961) and before The Young Girls of Rochefort (1967).[1]



Madame Emery and her daughter Geneviève (Deneuve) sell umbrellas at their little boutique in the coastal town of Cherbourg in Normandy, France. Geneviève is in love with Guy (Castelnuovo), a handsome young auto mechanic who lives with and cares for his sickly aunt and godmother Elise along with her quiet, dedicated, care-giver, Madeleine (Ellen Farner), a young woman who clearly loves Guy. Subsequently, though, Guy is drafted, and must leave to fight in the Algerian War.

The night before he leaves, he and Geneviève make love. She becomes pregnant, and feels abandoned, as he does not write often. At her mother's insistence, she marries thirtyish Roland Cassard (Marc Michel), a quietly handsome Parisian jeweler who falls in love with Geneviève and is willing to wed her, even though she is carrying another man's child (Cassard had previously wooed the title character in Lola, only to be rejected once the father of her child returned—he relates an edited version of this story to Madame Emery with ill-concealed bitterness). The society wedding in a great cathedral shows Genevieve's upward social and economic movement, but she does not seem at all happy with her situation, and clearly feels trapped.

When Guy returns with a leg injury, he learns that Geneviève has married and left Cherbourg, and that the umbrella store is gone. He attempts to ease back into his old life, but becomes rebellious due both to the war and to the loss of Geneviève. One day, Guy quits his job after an argument with his boss, and spends a night and a day drinking excessively in seedy port bars. He winds up sleeping with a prostitute named Jenny, whose real name turns out to be also Geneviève.

When he returns to his apartment, Madeleine tells him tearfully that his godmother has died. He sees that Madeleine loves him, and cleans up his life with her encouragement. With an inheritance from his aunt, he is able to finance to own a new "American-style" Esso gas station. He asks Madeleine to marry him, and she accepts, though she wonders if he is asking her from despair at Geneviève's actions.

The coda is set in December 1963, approximately five years after the earliest events. Guy is now managing the couple's Esso station. He's with his now upbeat and loving wife Madeleine and their little son François. It is Christmas Eve. Madeleine and François go for a short walk, leaving Guy briefly, after which a new Mercedes pulls in to the station. The mink-clad driver turns out to be a sophisticated, visibly wealthy Geneviève, accompanied by her (and Guy's) daughter Françoise, who remains in the car.

At first shocked to see each other, they go inside the station to talk, and Geneviève explains this is the first time she has returned to Cherbourg since her marriage. Her fairly young mother is now dead. Her rich husband and child are the only family she has left. She has evidently had no children by Cassard, and she makes no mention of him. The two converse while Geneviève's car is being filled with gas, and Geneviève asks Guy if he wants to meet their daughter. Without comment, and little reflection, he answers "no", and this leads to their exchanging their final goodbyes. As the film ends, Guy greets his wife with a kiss and plays with his son.



The singing was dubbed for each actor in The Umbrellas of Cherbourg:[2]

  • Danielle Licari: Geneviève Emery
  • José Bartel: Guy Foucher
  • Christiane Legrand: Madame Emery
  • Georges Blaness: Roland Cassard
  • Claudine Meunier: Madeleine
  • Claire Leclerc: Aunt Élise

After the film's release, two of the film's songs became English-language hits and were recorded by many artists: "I Will Wait For You" and "Watch What Happens" (originally "Recit de Cassard" "Cassard's Story"). Both were given new English lyrics by lyricist Norman Gimbel. Tony Bennett recorded a classic version of the former song which was released with one version of the soundtrack CD.


The current version released on DVD by Koch-Lorber Films is a completely restored version of the original.

The film was shot on Eastman negative stock which rapidly faded and became almost unusable. The various copies of the film used in the cinema circuit also gradually lost their quality, which meant that Umbrellas could never be seen with the rich colours that Demy had intended. Fortunately, Demy had known that the original negative would fade quickly, and thus made negative black and white copies of the original in the three colour bands (a process similar to the creation of the older Technicolor process: see the article on Technicolor for an explanation of this 'three-strip' process). These black-and-white prints had greater longevity and in the 1990s, Demy's wife, film director Agnès Varda, headed a project to create a new colour print from the three black and white copies. The resulting film recaptured Demy's vision of a fantastically colourful Cherbourg.

In addition, composer Michel Legrand assisted in the digital remastering of his score to produce a higher-quality version.


Stage adaptation

In 1979, an English-language stage adaptation, with translated lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, premiered at the Public Theater.


External links



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