TCL Chinese Theatre, 11/10/2013
A digital restoration of Jacques Demy’s The Umbrellas of Cherbourg [Les Parapluies de Cherbourg,1964] was introduced by Agnés Varda, Demy’s widow and a renown director in her own right. Varda supervised the restoration with her son Mathieu and daughter Rosalie.
She recalled that when Demy was trying to get the film made, a producer suggested it be shot in black-and-white without music. Ultimately, Demy’s vision prevailed and Umbrellas went on to become a beloved Technicolor musical, but one badly in need of restoration. Varda, with daughter Rosalie, described the 100,000 Euro restoration effort. What we saw in the Chinese Theater looked worth every penny.
The plot is familiar but with a twist. Boy meets Girl. Boy Loses Girl. Both wind up with other people. In the meantime, there’s the aftermath of war in Algeria, an unplanned pregnancy and other matters that weren’t usually talked about onscreen. The story begins a few years in the past, in the late 1950s but the pastel colors and styles are pure 1960s. With her slim figure, wide-eyed Catherine Deneuve as Geneviève, became an icon of fashion and beauty. The era of the busty blonde was over.Anne Vernon, Marc Michel, Nino Castelnuovo and Anne Farmer offer fine support. Farner is especially good as Madeleine, the girl forever in Geneviève’s shadow.
With all the dialogue sung, the soundtrack is vitally important and was also restored. Over the years, Michel Legrand’s songs have become identified with the era. “Autrefois” (“Watch What Happens”), sung by Marc Michel, captures his character’s inner conflict.