The Umbrellas of Cherbourg

22/07/2013 17:06

Was mentioned in the Tabula Peutingeriana, was quoted in the Antonine Itinerary, have been called Coriovallinse settlement, Coriallum or Coriallo, Carusburg and Carisburg. The medieval poet Wace named her Chieresburg in his Roman de Rou. But nobody never had sung or had sheltered from the rain as Catherine Deneuve and Nino Castelnuovo under her umbrellas.

Cherbourg has a curious relationship with the seventh art. Some films were shot on the streets since the early twentieth century. In 1926 the director René Le Somptier created a six-part series entitled Le P'tit Parigot. In 1950 Marcel Carné filmed La Marie du Port. In 1975 Jane Birkin act to Claude Zidi in La course à l'échalote. One year later Polanski would give the main character in Tess to Nastassja Kinski. In 1978 Yves Montand starred Joseph Losey’s Les Routes du Sud and Eric Rohmer would film here his Le Rayon Vert in 1986. But none of them would catapult the city name as Jacques Demy's musical Les Umbrellas of Cherbourg in its 1964 premiere.

Catherine Deneuve would play Geneviève Emery, a clerk in an umbrellas store and Nino Castelnuovo as Guy Foucher, a car repair mechanic. Both young would fall in love in the city with Algerian War menacing backdrop. In fact the film is one of the few French films that address the issue even collaterally. The same year, Jean-Luc Godard filmed Le Petit Soldat. Both should split when he is called up and sent to the war in North Africa. The reunion, casual, will occur years later when she returned to Cherbourg a Christmas eve.

The musical, in which all the dialogue was sung, was filmed along eight weeks in the summer of 1963 on the streets of the city. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg deserved the Golden Palm Cannes Film Festival in 1964. Also granted awards Louis Delluc 1963 and 1965 Méliès Award.


The umbrellas shop still stands there. It's in a corner near the end of the rue du Port, near the port, of course. A white plate stand out with letters that in a striking red remember that was where the film was filmed by Jacques Demy. Before the shoot was a hardware shop, now sells stuff related to patchwork fabric. Over their windows proudly displays the name Les Parapluies de Cherbourg. Here were rolled four of the most significant scenes of the movie. Nearby is the place de la Révolution, a triangular space where was filmed the carnival scene in which was invited those who wished to participate in the filming as an extra. In the Basilica of the Trinity, that once William the Conqueror ordered the construction, was filmed the Geneviève with Roland Cassard marriage sequence. In the Italian Theatre of rue des Tribunaux the protagonists come to see the opera Carmen. Cour Marie, the ancient halls of the Presse de la Manche and Alexander III docks are other scenarios featured in the film that still exist in the urban grid.

In the city there are currently seventeen movie theatres, as usual concentrated in only two multiplexes. The Odéon, in 51 rue Maréchal Foch, concentrated five. In the Mega CGR, digital distributor Circuit Georges Raymond got the twelve remaining near the boardwalk, in the boulevard Félix Amiat. About the movie theatres more or less mythical already disappeared but always missing rest the memories. In the rue de la Paix, the Omnia, which reopened in 1944 at the end of the war - a logical well regarded - was purchased by the city, was closed as a screening room in the nineties and eventually hosts social events. It appears that there were no more extraordinary queues as those forming after liberation, when the war was over. In the Place de la République was the Eldorado, today there's not even the building. Eden also gone on rue Cochin, Saint Joseph on rue des Ormes and Vox.

But there are those who took the umbrellas of Cherbourg further verbatim, or more seriously. Jean-Pierre Yvon was twelve when leaving school ran into the making of the film. Years later, in 1981, back to their city, opened a gift shop in the pedestrian mall on rue des Portes, until one day he thought Je réalise que je suis a Cherbourg, que dans le monde entier on m’a parlé des parapluies de Cherbourg mais que le produit n’existe pas! (I realize I'm in Cherbourg, and  worldwide I have heard about the Umbrellas of Cherbourg, but the product didn’t exist!) In 1986 registered the umbrella brand with the name of the city ... and the film. Le Véritable Cherbourg – La Manufacture de Parapluies de Cherbourg, creating the first issue in black with the city shield embroidered on the fabric. Anyway production didn’t start until 1996, releasing several models in different finishes and materials.

So now can’t be denied that there are umbrellas in Cherbourg, maybe except on sunny days.

© J.L.Nicolas


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