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The Umbrellas of Cherbourg – The Criterion Collection (Blu-ray Review)

Get ready for a colorful and musical delight with The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. This Criterion Collection release has actually already been available in 2014’s The Essential Jacques Demy Blu-ray box set. However, it would seem the resounding success of the Oscar-winning La La Land led to a separate release, as that film is so indebted to both ‘Cherbourg’ as well as Demy’s The Young Girls of Rochefort, which also received a separate release. There’s also the matter of ‘Cherbourg’ being simply one of the well-regarded musicals of its time, placing it as a highlight among the French New Wave and serving as an ambitious inspiration for many films that followed. So yes, for those who can’t afford the full Demy Blu-ray box set, Criterion at least has you covered for one of the major highlights of his filmography.

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Film:

Divided into three parts, the film tells a somewhat traditional story of two lovers who eventually deal with separation created by a call to go to war. Catherine Deneuve stars as Genevieve, the daughter of an umbrella shop owner, who has fallen in love with Guy (Nino Castelnuovo). Guy will eventually be headed to Algeria, but that doesn’t stop the two from sharing lots of time with each other. It’s only after Guy leaves that Genevieve finds herself at odds with how to handle the situation. This film is operatic, as the three-part structure is enhanced further by having every bit of dialogue sung. Various songs, casual conversation, everything has a rhythm in this colorful romance story.

Keeping La La Land in mind, if you thought that musical was a fun tribute to the old musicals (and classic Hollywood in general), then really take a look at this film and how Demy pays tribute to the Golden Age of musicals while applying his directorial style to the proceedings. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is quite ambitious and plenty engaging. It’s also not as if the film grew a following over time. It was a hit in France and would be nominated for multiple Oscars, including Best Foreign Film, Best Song and Best Original Screenplay back in 1964.

Most of that success has to come from just how well this film flows. The fantastic music by Michel Legrand draws you in instantly, and as you begin to catch on to the nature of the sung dialogue, it also becomes apparent how much of a visual treat the film is. Cherbourg is quite stylish in its presentation, as there is color bursting out of every seen. While today’s films have the luxury of color processing and digital enhancements to get the best out of the real and artificial locations, this is a movie that had the work done to make sure all the settings could stand out just as brightly as the costumes.

Not hurting are these incredible performances. The film has plenty of dramatic elements, but the nature of the continuous music certainly provides a challenge. Actors bounce in and around various scenes and convey a range of emotions without literally missing a beat. That accomplishment is well worth pointing out, as this is an emotional film that wants you to feel for the characters.

Through all of this, Demy’s unorthodox method makes an excellent film that has rightfully received its share of praise over the decades. Cherbourg’s stylized nature makes it kind of enchanting to watch and certainly enjoyable. Even during the heavier moments, the music is just so fantastic, and the array of colors on display goes far to make this a film to be swept up in. Given that you’ve likely gone out to love or feel displeased by the latest attempt at a Hollywood musical throwback, be sure to see one of the bests.


Video:

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Clarity/Detail: Featuring a great 2K restoration, there’s plenty to enjoy in the presentation for this Blu-ray. With such a heavy emphasis on style, it is good to note just how impressive it is to see so much detail in the various sets and locations. With what was likely plenty of corrections made to the previous transfer, there is a lot to take in, as one enjoys this clean presentation.

Depth: The continuous music means watching characters move all over the screen to hit various marks. Fortunately, the depth of field is smooth and works well for the film.

Black Levels: With some notable scenes set at night and the instances of darker spaces making up some of the photography scenes, we get to see some deep and rich black levels throughout the film.

Color Reproduction: This aspect is what everyone would likely most be looking forward to and fear not, the colors are the real deal here. With such a heavy emphasis on bringing this alive through a heavy use of color, there is so much to enjoy with the color restoration that makes sure to really bring this film to life. The primary colors pop like crazy and everything else looks wonderful as well.

Flesh Tones: Facial textures are great. We are treated to plenty of shots of these characters singing lovingly at one another and the clarity is great.

Noise/Artifacts: There are some artifacts that essentially come as a residual effect from the film’s age, which is basically a non-issue. This transfer is clean and wonderful.

Audio:

Audio Format(s): French 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, French 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio

Subtitles: English

Dynamics: Depending on preference, there may be some that are happy to enjoy the 2.0 track and others into the 5.1 surround. Regardless, the audio restoration done for this film is fantastic. The nature of this film and its musical qualities is important and the Blu-ray does a fabulous job delving of making up for how the various audio elements all play a role.

Low Frequency Extension: Some of the bigger moments in the score add some extra value to the LFE channel.

Surround Sound Presentation: Thanks to the 5.1 surround track, a fine job has been done to create a wonderful balance in how the audio is heard. The score has its role and plays on the center/front channels, with the rear channels taking on some of the other elements as well. It’s great to listen to, which is especially impressive given the clarity that came through in the restoration process.

Dialogue Reproduction: Everybody sings and everyone is heard.

Extras:

 

While this may be the same disc from the previous box set release, so no new features, there is still plenty to enjoy as far as extras are concerned on this Blu-ray. Some retrospectives, audio excerpts and more populate the supplements section.

Features Include:

  • Once Upon a Time… The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (HD, 55:00) – A 2008 documentary that goes over the production history of the film and features a variety of clips and interviews with the cast and crew. This doc is in English and French, with subtitles when necessary.
  • Rodney Hill (HD, 23:00) – This 2014 interview features film scholar Rodney Hill discussing the film and the French New Wave.
  • Cinepanorama (HD, 12:00) – An archival French television interview with Jacques Demy and composer Michel Legrand. In French with subtitles.
  • Michel Legrand at the National Film Theater (HD, 27:00) – This audio excerpt from 1991 features Legrand discussing his musical career and impact.
  • Catherine Deneuve at the National Film Theater (HD, 12:00) – This audio excerpt from 1983 features Deneuve explaining how her life evolved as an actress and the role of a lifetime with Demy.
  • Restoration Demonstration (HD, 7:00) – A look at how the 2K restoration of the film was possible. In French with subtitles.
  • Trailer (HD, 2:00) – Created for the restoration.
  • PLUS – An essay by critic Jim Ridley.

 

Summary:

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is a classic that I can only hope gets discovered by newer musical and film fans. Everyone else can continue to have their same love for the film, as it looks and sounds fantastic for this Criterion Collection release. Add to that a bevy of extras and there is enough to keep any fan satisfied.

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Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Gamer, Comic Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

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