The lives of Geneviève Emery and Guy Foucher of Cherbourg, France are presented in four acts. Act 1 begins in November 1957, when 16-year-old Geneviève, who works in her widowed mother's umbrella shop called "Les parapluies de Cherbourg", and 20-year-old Guy, who works as a mechanic at a gas station, are madly in love and want to get married. They are reluctant to tell anyone not only of their want to get married, but of their relationship. Geneviève believes her mother will think her too young and would want her to marry someone with better prospects, especially considering her own tenuous financial situation. And Guy is more concerned now about not abandoning his ailing godmother, Aunt Élise, who raised him, and who he looks after along with a young woman named Madeleine. Act 2, told largely from Geneviève's perspective, begins in February 1958. Guy, drafted to fight for the French in Algeria, has been gone for two months, and is expected to be gone for two years. Geneviève rarely ...Written by
The first of the three segments is perhaps the sunniest film ever made. It's a totally original film (at least from what I've seen); so original, in fact, that at first it's kind of off-putting -- the artificiality of the bubble gum colors (in the first segment, as they change slightly as each moves into the next), the constantly moving camera, and the fact that all of the lines are sung makes it hard to get situated within the film, for the same reason that you turn the car radio down when you're driving down a street trying to read house numbers. ("I can't follow the plot, they keep singing...") And yet Demy isn't satisfied with just being sunny (and his brightness is never garish); each segment has a specific feel, the grandest being the last, with an ending that's just right. (Though it should be said that Demy never once sacrifices the pleasure he creates, nor does he fall into any stale conventions, even while his story is based on the oldest of movie clichés -- wait for me!).
I hesitate to use the word melodrama, but that's essentially what the film is, both for the meaning of the word "melo" (music) and for the heightened emotions brought on my the music. It feels like we've got our head in the clouds, not least of all because the acting is aided by, well, the singing. The music, which is nearly always splendid (and never song-and-dancey), compliments the actors. At first the acting is very plain; or at least, it seems that way. I think that's due to the unconventional approach. Deneuve's loveliness as a young woman keeps us from responding to much aside from her beauty (and she starts off as a typical love-struck sixteen year-old), but by the end she's quite a different person, and to overuse a term applied to Deneuve, she becomes elegant. (I kept looking at her handsome costar thinking Alain Delon would have been perfect in the role; then I learned his most noteworthy film aside from this one was the Delon-starring Visconti film, "Rocco and His Brothers.) Surely some people would probably vomit at a film of such shameless exhibitionism and style, but I was left astonished, thinking, How in the hell did they pull it off? 9/10
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