A Palme d’Or winner at Cannes in 1964, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is a masterpiece of French cinema and the peak of writer-director Jacques Demy’s career. Inspired by Hollywood musicals, Demy created a poignant fairytale, in colour and song.

Catherine Deneuve, the grand dame of French cinema, stars in her breakout role as fresh-faced teenager in love Geneviève Emery. The object of her affections is a young car mechanic Guy (Nino Castelnuovo), but Geneviève’s mother disapproves of the match, and when Guy is drafted to fight in the Algerian war and Geneviève discovers she is pregnant, the lovers seem doomed never to meet again.

Demy transforms this bittersweet tale into a soaring operatic masterpiece. The beautiful choreography and fluid camera work create a feel of constant motion, while vivid colours enliven the small town setting. The film’s expressive score, by turns haunting and uplifting, earned composer Michel Legrand his first Oscar nomination (he went on to win three). Brimming with playful charm and anchored by Deneuve’s timeless performance, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg still enchants from beginning to end.

Kate McEvoy
Jameson Dublin International Film Festival

‘A glorious romantic confection unlike any other in movie history’
The Washington Post