The Umbrellas of Cherbourg

Have you ever stumbled across a movie in a style or genre in which you would normally have no interest whatsoever, but for some reason you start watching and you are sucked in?

That was me the first time I ran across “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” (1964). I’ve wanted to see it again ever since, and it will be on Turner Classic Movies tonight, as part of Catherine Deneuve day in “Summer Under The Stars.”

When I start describing this movie to you, your first impulse will be to ignore it completely. Please don’t — it may be that, like me, you’ll be drawn in. If nothing else, it’s a unique cinematic experience

“The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” is not a traditional movie musical — it is, for all intents and purposes, an opera, or at least an operetta. All of the dialogue is sung — in French, with English subtitles. (No! Come back here!) The plot is right out of a soap opera. A young woman, who works in her mother’s umbrella shop in Cherbourg, France, falls in love with a young man. The young man is drafted, goes off to war and is incommunicado, and the woman then discovers that she’s pregnant. Her mother urges her into the arms of a successful, middle-aged man — much older than the girl, but he adores her, regardless of her condition. Will she marry the older man? Will the young man return?

The movie’s theme song, a melody which is returned to again and again, was given English lyrics and became a standard, “I Will Wait For You,” sung by Tony Bennett, among others. Even if you don’t recognize the title, you’ll recognize the tune when you hear it in the movie.

This is, in some ways, the least likely movie for me to ever be interested in, but somehow I got sucked into it.

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