52. “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg”, Jacques Demy (1964)

Part of The 100 Greatest Movies I’ve Ever Seen list.


The Umbrellas of Cherbourg aka Les Parapluies de Cherbourg

dir. Jacques Demy scr Jacques Demy cin. Jean Rabier with Catherine Deneuve, Nino Castelnuovo, Anne Vernon, and Marc Michel

In 100 words: Artifice gives way to a naked display of emotions in this magnificent musical that simultaneously pays homage to Hollywood as it comments on their phoniness. The novelty of having an entirely sung-through musical wears off immediately, but Demy thankfully has more up his sleeves than that: the tragic story of his young lovers is heightened by the sweep of Legrand’s gorgeous jazzy music and Demy’s colorful art design. The overwhelming vivacity of the colors and the music is just cover for the most devastating love story told onscreen that reaches its peak with its stunning coda. Prepare to weep uncontrollably.

Other Movies for Context: Jacques Demy continued his gorgeous partnership with Michel Legrand, the composer for the music here, with his similarly stylish (if more refined pop colors) The Young Girls of Rochefort (1967), starring Deneuve again. But obviously, the movie that feels closest to this is La La Land (2016), which has the same jazzy vibe, colorful design, and a similarly devastating love story at its center.

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