The Umbrellas of Cherbourg
Directed by Jacques Demy
HOME, 22 December 2019
This a a banal, bourgeois story yet a magical film.
The bourgeois story sees Catherine Deneuve’s shop girl in love with Nino Castelnuovo’s car mechanic. They are parted when he is called up into the army, but she promises to wait for him. Pregnant with his child, Deneuve decides eventually to marry a rich diamond merchant. He offers her a life and a way out of the small town. On his return, the car mechanic is torn up, naturally, but eventually he too marries and settles down.
At the close Deneuve and Castelnuovo meet when she stops to fill up her car at the garage that he now owns. Her daughter, their child, is in the car but he expresses no curiosity about her. He has another child, a boy, with the woman he has married. The two lovers talk but not for long. For now they have separate lives, their once grand passion – and any residual bitterness – has burnt out. They are strangers.
As for the film – a languid musical full of bold colours – it is wonderful to look at and full of strange moments, such as when Deneuve wears a crown and is compared to a Madonna in Antwerp. Or when she wears a dress with the pins still in it, perhaps as an anti-groping device. It is curious too that both lovers wear Burberry raincoats (in Normandy in 1964, really?).