Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. France/West Germany, 1964. Parc Film, Madeleine Films, Beta Film. Screenplay by Jacques Demy. Cinematography by Jean Rabier. Produced by Mag Bodard. Music by Michel Legrand. Production Design by Bernard Evein. Costume Design by Jacqueline Moreau. Film Editing by Anne-Marie Cotret, Monique Teisseire. The Criterion Collection. Academy Awards 1964. Academy Awards 1965. Cannes Film Festival 1964. Golden Globe Awards 1965.
Taking the conventions of the musical genre and using a tragic storybook romance as a basis, director Jacques Demy and composer Michel Legrand present a fully-sung story about a young umbrella seller (Catherine Deneuve) who falls in love with a garage mechanic (Nino Castelnuovo) and wants to marry him. As in so many stories of this ilk (The Cranes Are Flying, Fanny), he leaves for army duty not knowing she is pregnant, forcing her to marry someone she doesn’t love in order to save her good name. Gorgeous, ridiculously colourful wallpapers abound, bathing everything in queasy bright hues, while the music curiously never breaks out into any super dance numbers or grand productions. Instead, it’s all kept at a realistic minimum, almost as if singing were the most perfectly natural way for people to express themselves. It’s a great experiment that under Demy’s direction works completely (better than his more traditional musical follow up, The Young Girls Of Rochefort), and also manages to bring out the most romantic lover in all of us. This was Deneuve’s international debut, and the world has been in love with her ever since.