With the support of the Cannes Film Festival, the classic film “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” was totally restored and digitalized in time for its 50th anniversary in 1914. Catherine Deneuve received the Best Actress award at Cannes, and the film received four Academy Award nominations.
Umbrella - Wikimedia
The film is unusual in that the script is entirely sung throughout. It is told in four acts, with the first act entitled “The Departure, November 1957.” It is raining out and colorful umbrellas decorate the scene depicted before our eyes. Guy Foucher (Nino Castelnuovo) has finished his day at the gas station and hops on his bike to stop off to see his girlfriend Genevieve Emery (Catherine Deneuve) at her family’s business “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg.” The film was Catherine Deneuve’s breakthrough which launched her successful career which lasted for several decades.
Guy and Genevieve Have a Date
Guy and Genevieve are obviously in love and sing to each other as they meet and plan for their evening’s entertainment at the opera “Carmen” followed by dancing at a local night club.
Guy goes to his home to get ready. He lives with his Aunt Elise (Mireille Perrey) who has raised him since the death of his parents. Aunt Elise is not in good health and she has a young caretaker living with them, a pretty young girl named Madeleine (Ellen Farner) who takes care of all her needs.
Catherine Deneuve - Wikimedia
They Talk About Their Future
At the opera, Genevieve tells Guy that she had to tell her mother that she was going to the theater with her friend Cecile since her mother did not approve of her 17-year-old daughter having a suitor. They speak about their future together, having children, and loving each other forever. Genevieve said if she had a girl, she would want to name her Francoise. Again, all of their conversation is being sung.
Genevieve Tells Her Mother About Guy
When she arrived home, Genevieve confessed to her widowed mother (Anne Vernon) that she had not been with Cecile but with a man named Guy who was twenty years old and very handsome. She was sorry that she had lied, but they wanted to get married. Her mother discouraged her, telling her that she had plenty of time to think about getting married.
Nino Castelnuovo - Wikimedia
They Face Financial Ruin
The next day, at the shop, Madame Emery confided to Genevieve that she had just received notice that she owed 15,000 francs that had to be paid by February; otherwise, they would be financially ruined. Catherine told her mother not to worry. If she got married, she and Guy would help her. Guy was not rich but they would live modestly. She suggested to her mother that she should sell her jewels. Since it was the only solution, Madame Emery said they would speak with Mr. Dubourg at the jeweler’s shop to see what could be done. She brought with her a prized pearl necklace which she was willing to give up. Mr. Dubourg stated that he could sell it for her but that he would get much less for it than it was worth.
Mr. Cassard Can Sell the Necklace
A gentleman was in the shop at the time, a Mr. Roland Cassard, a jewelry salesman, who interrupted the conversation to say that he could sell the necklace in Paris or London where he would get an excellent price for it. Madame Emery was delighted and asked him to come by their shop the next day to settle the transaction.
The next day, it was getting to be very late and Mr. Cassard had not shown up yet. Genevieve told her mother she was going out, but her mother said “I forbid you to see that boy. Besides, Mr. Cassard will be here soon.”
Anne Vernon - Wikimedia
Mr. Cassard Stops By
Genevieve left the shop anyway and Mr. Cassard finally stopped by. Madame Emery offered him a cup of tea. He said that he had seen Miss Genevieve go and was sorry that he did not have a chance to speak with her again. Madame Emery said that she and Genevieve had a fight; they had both been lonely since her husband passed away. She invited Mr. Cassard to come to dinner the next evening when Genevieve would be home. He apologized that he had to leave the next morning for Paris and London, but he paid for the necklace and they concluded their transaction. He said “I will see you the next time I am in town.”
Guy Receives His Draft Notice
When Genevieve got to the gas station, she told Guy that her mother forbade her to see him. She wanted to get married; she did not want to lose him. Sadly, Guy said “There’s no hurry now. I got my draft notice today. I’ll be gone for more than two years because of the war in Algeria. We’ll talk about it when I get back.” Genevieve said “I will not be able to live without you.” He said “I will love you ‘til my dying day.” Guy then brought Genevieve home to meet his Aunt Elise who was asleep when they arrived. Guy and Genevieve made love for the first time in his room. She returned home sad.
Madame Emery was relieved at the news. She told Genevieve that it was better to wait. She might even forget Guy completely. “You need to go out and have some fun,” she said. “Mr. Cassard came by this evening. He asked about you.”
At Guy’s house, Aunt Elise assured him that Madeleine was taking good care of her. “When I die,” she said, “everything I have will be yours. Madeleine will keep you informed.”
Scene from "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg" - Wikimedia
Guy and Genevieve Say Good-Bye
At the train station, Guy and Genevieve said their good-byes, pledging their undying love.
The second act is entitled “The Absence, February 1958.”
Madame Emery told Genevieve that she had met Roland Cassard in town and they had talked for an hour. He had just returned from a trip to the United Stated. Genevieve told her mother that Guy left two months ago and only wrote to her once. She did not know where he was. Her mother said “He’s forgotten you. If he was thinking of you, he would have written.” Genevieve fainted at this. “You’re hiding something, aren’t you,” she said. “I’m pregnant, Mother,” Genevieve answered. “What are we going to do,” said her mother. “What will our friends and our neighbors think?” Genevieve said “We have no friends and our neighbors don’t speak to us.”
Mr. Cassard Asks for Genevieve’s Hand
Roland Cassard came to dinner. Madame Emery said “Genevieve has been working too hard lately.” When Genevieve left the room, Roland said to her mother “I want to broach a subject. I have come to ask for Genevieve’s hand. I live only for her and I think only of her. I must go to Antwerp for three months. Genevieve can give me her answer when I return.
Genevieve received a letter from Guy. He was happy about the baby and said that Francois was a nice name for a boy. He was sad that he wouldn’t see Genevieve while she was pregnant. Genevieve said to her mother “I forget what Guy looks like. This picture is all I have of him.”
They received a postcard from Roland Cassard stating that he would be back soon. Madame Emery told her daughter that Roland was not a womanizer, that he had suffered a lot, and that he would protect her. She would not have the same kind of future with Guy.
Map of Cherbourg - Wikimedia
Genevieve reminded her mother “Will Cassard want to see me when he knows the truth? Will he take me like this? I have been thinking it over. Absence is so heavy to bear. Guy is so distant from me.”
In April, Roland sent her a ring. When he saw her again, he said “We’ll bring up the child together. I love you, Genevieve.”
Roland and Genevieve were married.
The third act is entitled “The Return, March 1959.”
Guy came home to find that there were new owners at “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg.” He had sensed that her letters were not the same, but he was surprised that she had married another man. He asked his Aunt Elise “Is Madeleine married yet?” Aunt Elise said “No, she is sensible.”
Madeleine told Guy that Genevieve left after the wedding. They sold the shop. “I think they are in Paris,” she said.
Guy and Madeleine Become Friends
Guy knew that he could always get his job back at the gas station, or go to another garage. He could live off his pension if he had to. However, he could not concentrate at work and the boss fired him. He went to a bar and had some drinks. Then Madeleine informed him that his Aunt Elise had died. She said she could no longer stay in their apartment. Guy reminded her that she had no family. He said “I need you, Madeleine.” She told him “You are an idle loafer.” He said “Please stay. I’ll try harder.”
In June, Guy bought a gas station and asked Madeleine to share his life. Madeleine was afraid that he had not stopped thinking about Genevieve. He said “I want to be happy with you.”
A Snowy Day
The fourth act is entitled “A Snowy Day, December 1963.”
Guy and Madeleine are getting their three-year-old boy Francois ready to go to see Santa Claus. It is snowing very hard. Guy kisses them goodbye. At the gas station, a woman and a little girl pull up for gas. Guy’s helper took care of them. It was Genevieve. She walked into the station to find that it was Guy. She told him her little girl was named Francoise. Guy did not want to meet the child. Genevieve pulled away as Madeleine and Francois arrived home. He embraced them joyously, and their happiness was evident.
I am so happy that this film has been restored and digitalized. The whole world should see this beautiful story. The talented actors did a beautiful job singing their parts throughout the film. If you would like a lift today, see “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg."