Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Je T'Attendrai

How's that for a blog title?  It's my best translation for the name of a song from this movie.  It was a struggle coming up with that.   And you should note that I took French every year from the fifth grade right on through my sophomore year in college.

Mais je digresse....

"The Umbrellas of Cherbourg" presented this blog author with a curious dilemma.   As you are painfully aware, I frequently review and rate current movies in this forum.  Now, here in Los Angeles, I am lucky to be able to go out to classic movie houses and see some wonderful old films.   I don't review them here, because most of them can be found on Netflix, TCM, or your own DVD shelf.

But what about a 50-year-old movie that's currently being restored and released to theaters?  And one that I have personally never seen before?  Is it worth a blog review?

Mais oui. Or so I decided.

I had always heard about "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg" but never bothered to seek it out.   Well, it's got its golden anniversary and that was apparently worth a digital restoration.   It was playing down the block from my house.  Hey, why not?

To my surprise, I discovered that the Nuart Theater was packed.  Allegedly, this film has its fans.   I saw grandmothers with their daughters and their granddaughters.  I saw old couples.  I saw young couples.  I saw actor/dancer George Chakiris.  He's supposedly a big fan and also did a later movie with the director Jacques Demy and Umbrella's star Catherine Deneuve.  

Hmmm?  What had I fallen into?

I'll be damned if I know.   Indeed, "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg" is an acquired taste.  If you did not know this, every word of dialogue is sung.   Well, not sung like a song but uttered as if the person is singing.   Confused yet?   There are three main melodies that play throughout the movie.   They were totally recognizable to me because they played on my mother's hi fi record player back in the sixties.

The most famous is "I Will Wait For You."   Or, as I translated, "je t'attendrai."  Recorded by everybody from Andy Williams to Connie Francis.

There's another well known ditty or melody.   "Watch What Happens."  I don't have the energy or time to give you the French translation of that one.  Recorded by everybody from Andy Williams to Connie Francis.

If you like and remember either of those tunes, this is the movie for you.   Because they are played on the soundtrack over and over and over and over.

Mon dieu.

Of course, there is a plot that starts in November of 1957.  There's this good looking auto mechanic who's dating a beautiful sales clerk at an umbrella store.   Before he goes off to his two-year hitch in the French army (a joke in itself), he knocks her up.  When he comes back, she's already left town with another man who will raise his child.   The two lovers reunited briefly six years later when she tries to tank up at his gas station.   

End of movie.

Yes, fin.

Truth be told, my grocery list has more intrigue and plot.  But, then again, I am not singing along to "I Will Wait For You" as I call off milk, orange juice, and soap detergent.

As flimsy and as stupid as I just made "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg" seem, here's the problem.

I liked it. I have no clue why.  I doubt anybody else in the theater did either.   But everybody was applauding like crazy.   George Chakiris was smiling from ear to ear as he tossed his empty popcorn container into the lobby trash can.  

Indeed, "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg" is a joy to listen to.  You can't help but hum one of the two melodies for days afterward.  And it's also exquisite to look at.  Bright colors that explode off the screen.   You also get a nice snapshot of just how bad wallpaper is in France.   I would have loved to have the Sherwin Williams account for this movie.  One ugly and hideous pattern after another.  It all looked like Paul Lynde's shirt closet in 1974.

Yet, I enjoyed it all.  I left the theater amused and confused.  How did I get sucked into something so banal and utterly slight?  

Perhaps it's a movie I need to see again to understand just what the hell I saw and apparently liked?   If you want to come, let me know.

I will wait for you.

LEN'S RATING:  A mystifying three stars.

Dinner last night:  Hot sausage, Spanish rice, and salad.  

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