It takes nerve to make a pic in which all dialog is sung. Also, there is no dancing and this is not a filmed operetta or opera.
Director-writer Jacques Demy went to the port town of Cherbourg to make this simple tale of a boy and girl in love. He is depicted leaving for the army, with said girl pregnant, and she giving in to her mother’s blandishments and marrying a well-heeled suitor. He comes back and finally marries a childhood friend and they see each other briefly one Christmas night as both go back to their regular lives.
Seemingly banal and sentimental on the surface, Demy has avoided these aspects by tasteful handling and the right balance in emotion, compassion and narrative. Pic becomes touching without being mawkish, simple sans being trite, and lovely to look at.
Michel Legrand has supplied a richly tuneful score that serves as a sharp counterpart to help story points and enhance the moods. The bright sets and the excellent color work are also assets.
Catherine Deneuve, a winsome-looking type that other directors have forced to act, here is allowed to be herself. She etches a fine portrait of a 16-year-old in love. Nino Castelnuovo has presence and poise as the boy. The dubbed voices, done in playback and recorded before shooting started, are all fitting for the various characters.
The title stems from an umbrella store owned by the girl’s mother.