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THE UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG (1964)

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Although set at the time of the Algerian War, this pop opera presents a timeless romance of young lovers (Catherine Deneuve and Nino Castelnuovo) torn apart by love and social restrictions. At its premiere, some critics noted the plot draws on Marcel Pagnol’s “Fanny” trilogy of the 1930s, and it’s also similar to dozens of Hollywood romances in which the young lovers give in to passion at the wrong time, only to leave the leading lady pregnant without the benefit of marriage. In the hands of French New Wave director Jacques Demy, the story doesn’t just embrace those conventions, it comments on them. The picture is filled with subtle commentary on class and politics; yet it’s directed with such a light touch—helped by Michel Legrand’s lilting score, the cast’s deft pantomime and Jean Rabier’s picturesque photography—that it never slows it down. It won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, had chart-topping recordings of its two main musical themes (“I Will Wait for You” and “Watch What Happens”), inspired a short satire that spawned its own hit song, “Les Bicyclettes de Belsize” and had three stage adaptations. It also made Deneuve an international star at the age of 21. (d. Jacques Demy, 91m, DCP)

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