THE UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG
Confined to my lonely room, sheltered from the raging plague laying waste upon the land. Palaces of pleasiure have locked doors. There’s no movement on movie screens and actors are not treading the boards in legit theatres. There are no films and plays to review. With Churchill (my feline pet) curled beside me, an idea to revisit favorite films suddenly seemed like a pleasing alternative.
Released in 1964 (I attended the New York premiere), “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” catapulted Catherine Deneuve to stardom, where she remains. The film is unusual in several ways. It’s a musical, but without show-stopping dance production numbers, chorus numbers, and duets. The structure is very operatic, no spoken dialogue, everything is sung. The narrative touches on poignancy having lightweight and serious elements leading to a bittersweet Romeo and Juliet conclusion. Emotions are stirred and eyes get misty. However the viewer will not be unfulfilled.
Star-crossed lovers,17-year old Genevieve (Deneuve) and 20-yearold Guy (Nino Castelnuovo), face the inflexible objections of Genevieve’s mother (Anne Vernon), who runs an umbrella store. Mother is resolute in feeling that a gas station mechanic is beneath her daughter. This does not deter the two from meeting secretively, eventually becoming intimate.
Set against the political conflict between France and Algeria in the mid-50s, Guy is recruited for military service in Algeria’s war for independace. After his departure, Genevieve learns that she is pregnant, and must decide whether to wait for Guy’s return which is uncertain, or, (at mother’s urging) marry the rich, cultured Roland Cassard (Marc Michel), who offers stability, undying love, and the promise of raising her child as his own. Genevieve faces a realistic, heartrending decision.
“The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” is a love story of quiet passion and tender feelings slowly ebbing and flowing at subdued pace through a candlelight and flowers romance. Composer Michel Legrand has created a melodic soundscape weaving through the story line. The power of the music enhances the joy, spirited, jaunty, and melancholy mood of the film. Legrand’s score yields a couple of ballads that became internation pop hits: “I Will Wait For You” and “Watch What Happens”. Check Youtube and give a listen.
I recall a meeting with Legrand a number of years ago. The composer/jazz pianist was in town for a weekend concert series with the Hamilton Philharmonic. From my collection, I requested he sign the two “Umbrella” sound track albums. The maestro, unaware of the second recording, asked if he could have it. How could I say no! Legrand inscribed the first album, I penned a message on the followup disc….mutually, fan and artist were appeased.
In “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg”, Catherine Deneuve reached film popularity not only for her beauty, but for possessing legitimate range, displaying equal amounts of the susceptibility and assuredness of a young girl emerging into womanhood confronting the mystery of love. Ces’t Magnifiqué,
This cinema classic reigns high on my favorites listing.
An ordinary film of an ordinary couple, married for many years, living an ordinary life, relaxed in their fortified union. Tom (Liam Neeson) and Joan (Lesley Manville) are in their sixies, happy with their middle-class status. A dark intrusion suddenly changes their lives.
Here the film touches on the realities of awkwardness and repose, burden and raised spirits, aches and pleasantries as Joan faces the jeopardy of breast cancer. Their lives now get tense, but not carried away by the uncontrollable emotions of a looming uncertain future. Tom and Joan have known pain in the past with the death of their daughter, which altered their lifestyle while they held on to each other. But this new development could be incendiary to their union.
The narrative spells out the journey the pair are traveling in combating this physical attack while not comprehending each other’s suffering, being focused on their own grief. A thread of surrendering and perseverance as well as the non-showy meaning of life and love weaves throiugh the narrative, portraying barriers and insecurities, mixing faithfulness with worthlessness, and understanding what it means to have your home, your marriage, and your life controlled by something you can’t even see.
The focus here is not about dying or the finality of death but about strengthening their relationship as they faced the dread of the sudden death of their young daughter some years ago.The film keys on the serenity the couple now deals with leading to the looming diagnosis as viewers share their long experience through all sorts of obstacles.
There’s quiet resilience to the many steps Joan and Tom take during the process of her treatment. “Ordinary Love” focuses on an extraordinary look at ordinary love,” comment co-directors Lisa Barros D’Sa and Glenn Leyburn. “It explores big questions and small moments of human connection with unique wit and warmth.” Love, survival and the epic questions life throws at each and every one of us unfolds with luminous and unflinching candor.
Liam Neeson returns to a role of sensitivity following recent stints in action thrillers. British actress Lesley Manville, a theatre veteran, was blessed with accolades starring in the the Academy Award nominated film “Phantom Thread” in 2018. Together they form a convincing duo that avoids melodrama and reveals much about love and relationships.
“Ordinary Love” deserves a posting on your “flicks to see” list when the bijou doors reopen.
Word from Mirvish Productions that the new subscription season will begin in January 2021. Davis Mirvish says, “When the time is right, our theatres will be there to once again connect artists and audiences.”