Les parapluies de Cherbourg

  • Directors: Jacques Demy
  • Producers: Mag Bodard
  • Writers: Jacques Demy
  • Genres: Drama, Musical, Romance
  • Actors: Catherine Deneuve, Nino Castelnuovo

Madame Emery and her 17 year old daughter Geneviève (Deneuve) sell umbrellas at their little boutique in the coastal town of Cherbourg in Normandy, France. Geneviève is in love with 20 year old Guy (Castelnuovo), a handsome young auto mechanic who lives with and cares for his sickly aunt and godmother Elise along with her quiet, dedicated, care-giver, Madeleine (Ellen Farner), a young woman who clearly loves Guy. Subsequently, though, Guy is drafted, and must leave for a two-year tour of duty in the Algerian War. The night before he leaves, he and Geneviève make love. She becomes pregnant, and feels abandoned, as he does not write often. At her mother’s insistence, she marries thirtyish Roland Cassard (Marc Michel), a quietly handsome Parisian jeweler who falls in love with Geneviève and is willing to wed her, even though she is carrying another man’s child (Cassard had previously wooed the title character in Lola, only to be rejected once the father of her child returned—he relates an edited version of this story to Madame Emery with ill-concealed bitterness). The society wedding in a great cathedral shows Genevieve’s upward social and economic movement, but she does not seem at all happy with her situation, and clearly feels trapped.

The coda is set in December 1963, approximately six years after the earliest events. Guy is now managing the couple’s Esso station. He’s with his now upbeat and loving wife Madeleine and their little son François. It is Christmas Eve. Madeleine and François go for a short walk, leaving Guy briefly, after which a new Mercedes pulls in to the station. The mink-clad driver turns out to be a sophisticated, visibly wealthy Geneviève, accompanied by her (and Guy’s) daughter Françoise, who remains in the car. At first shocked to see each other, they go inside the station to talk, and Geneviève explains this is the first time she has returned to Cherbourg since her marriage, and she is only in town on a detour to Paris after picking her daughter up from Cassard’s mother in Anjou. Her fairly young mother is now dead. Her rich husband and child are the only family she has left. She has evidently had no children by Cassard. The two converse while Geneviève’s car is being filled with gas, and Geneviève asks Guy if he wants to meet their daughter. Without comment, and little reflection, he answers “no”, and this leads to their exchanging their final goodbyes. As the film ends, Guy greets his wife with a kiss and plays with his son.

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