Tuesday, 13 May 2014

An Eastmancoulour Dream: The Umbrellas of Cherbourg

Even the properly male, iron-clad heart of this thoroughly macho writer, impervious as it is to emotional vulnerability and soppy love stories, cannot resist the seductive powers of The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. Perhaps real men watch Jacques Demy films after all.

Cannes Film Festival starts on Wednesday and 50 years ago this film won the top prize, the Palme d'Or. Those were the days...true glamour and top quality films! I say that with some reservation, not wanting to sound like a fuddy-duddy member of the nostalgista, trapped in time to the extent that nothing after 1970 was any good. You know the kind, wallowing in images of designated golden ages in music, literature and film. The chosen ages depend on that of the nostalgist involved. The 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s...perhaps even the 70s. 

The younger a person is the harder it must become to dwell on the decades that have accumulated - a whole century's-worth! It's easier to just pick the time when you were a teenager, although it's not uncommon for strange young folk to become obsessed with decades from before their birth, most commonly the 50s and 60s. They may possess iPhones and use Twitter, but yearn for and idolise times when common people didn't even have telephones. Well, as Carson McCullers said, 'We are homesick most for the places we have never known.' It's that very fact that magnifies the feeling. The grass is always greener on the other side of time. 

The colours in Demy's masterpiece are more radiant than any today. We view a world that is unreal, super real, even by Hollywood standards, yet convince ourselves that it existed, that the 60s were one long Technicolor (or to be precise in this case, Eastman colour) dream. No-one coloured the dream like Demy in the 60s, not even Godard at his Pop Artful best. See another Demy classic, The Young Girls of Rochefort, for further evidence. Danielle Licari sang Catherine Deneuve's part, perfectly pitching it as believable simplicity, yet with great elegance. Michel Legrand wrote the score. The main theme is I Will Wait For You. Like Geneviève Emery in the film, we will wait forever to see anything that comes close to matching this amazing film.

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