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Umbrellas of Cherbourg, The/B+, B

France/1964/Color/Widescreen 1.66:1/Stereo Surround/88 minutes/Directed by Jacques Demy/Starring Catherine Deneuve, Nino Castelnuovo/Voyager/23 Chaps/CLV/$49.95

French director Jacques Demy’s romantic musical is perfectly reflected in the glistening raindrops of The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. Perhaps Demy’s work foreshadows the ubiquitous Broadway shows of Andrew Lloyd Webber. All the dialogue is sung, often in imaginative cadences to the music of Michael LeGrand. The simple melodramatic love story is given a fresh dimension by it’s operetta treatment.

The affection Demy feels for his characters and the village of Cherbourg invests his film with a double helping of heart. It’s a simple story of provincial France during the fifties. Guy, an orphan living with his Aunt, works in a garage. Genevieve works in her mother’s accessories shop The Umbrellas of Cherbourg . A single parent, Genevieve’s mother wants a better life for her daughter and does not approve of the romance. To compound the family pressures, the store is in financial trouble. The French war in Indochina intercedes when Guy is drafted. Extenuating circumstances prevent the romance from culminating in marriage and each of the young people goes on to make a life for themselves. The bittersweet scene in which the couple is reunited briefly at Guy’s garage several years later is pure of heart, just as the rest of Demy’s tale of love lost, love found and altered destinies. Demy’s stylized portrait of the garage showered by gently falling snowflakes is a natural ending to his sentimental movie.

Catherine Deneuve is the Demy vision of perfection in The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. As Genevieve, she is beautiful, youthful and innocent. Nino Castelnuovo is a brooding and bitter Guy who just does manage to escape the self pity created by the loss of his first love. Ann Vernon makes the difficult role of Genevieve’s mother sympathetic.

The source material for the laser disc is remarkably free of dirt and scratches. The transfer lacks the color intensity that this musical fairy tale screams out for. It’s not that the color is weak and maybe some sacrilegious playing with the color controls may have helped it, but saturation is less than ideal. The images are consistent throughout, sharp, with delicate pinks showing well. Skins tone are rather pale. The music tracks remix to Stereo was coordinated by filmmaker Agnes Varda(widow of Demy) and Michel Legrand and creates a slight reverberation in the vocals, somewhat disconcerting until you get used to it. Otherwise, the stereo separation is fine and Legand’s music is well produced.

 

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Laser Disc Ratings

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Apollo 13 SpecialA,A

Apollo 13//A,A

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 Films on Disc 1999  Stuart J. Kobak , all rights reserved.