The French musical 'The Umbrellas of Cherbourg' was recently voted the fourteenth most romantic film of all time by 'The Guardian'. I was surprised that it was only fourteenth, and would argue that 'The Umbrellas of Cherbourg', which has just been released in a fiftieth anniversary edition, is the greatest love story ever committed to film.

Written and directed by Jacques Demy and scored by Michel Legrand, the whole film, which came out originally in 1964, is a tribute to its era, and the few years that had just passed it. It perfectly captures the late 1950s/early 1960s, and goes way past beyond being a masterclass of French new wave.

In a nutshell it tells the story of two sweethearts Geneviève (Catherine Deneuve) and Guy (Nino Castelnuovo) whose relationship is destroyed when Guy is drafted into the French national service. After their only night of passion, Geneviève falls pregnant. Not having heard from Guy in months and with her mother telling her to get over him, another man rich jeweller Roland Cassard (Marc Michel) enters Geneviève's life, who agrees to marry her and raise the child. When Guy returns to normal life having been injured in combat, he finds the umbrella shop that Geneviève runs with her mother closed and its owners having moved on. Guy slowly rebuilds his life, meeting and marrying Madeleine (Ellen Farner) and taking over the management of a petrol station, but in the film's coda six years later Geneviève and Guy meet briefly again.

The whole film is shot in vivid colour, and, sung throughout entirely in French, is acted with enough conviction to have reduced this reviewer to mush. It is a film about human relationships, young love, dreams, and the real world, and an absolute classic of 1960's cinema.











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