The French are about as popular at the Pentagon this week as cat food on a croissant, but even the hawks would admit that the Gauls have made some wonderful movies. Among the most stylish and original is 1964's The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Jacques Demy's bittersweet charmer about a clerk (the beautiful Catherine Deneuve) in an umbrella shop who falls in love with a gas-station attendant (Nino Castelnuovo) soon called off to military service. The heroine loses her love to a war wound and another woman, and then, after discovering she is pregnant, winds up marrying another man for security. All of the dialogue is sung, as in an operetta, from a gorgeous score by Michel Legrand, and cinematographer Jean Rabier photographed the fantasy on sumptuous sets designed by Bernard Evein. Made in a period when cinematic invention was the norm, Umbrellas may have some infelicities of plot -- especially in retrospect -- but Demy's musical and visual experiment remains as captivating today as it was four decades ago. The respected French critic Georges Sadoul called the film a prime example of "poetic neo-realism," and that description is still apt. Umbrellas will show Friday, March 21, through Thursday, March 27, at Madstone Theaters at Tamarac Square, as part of the "Classic Classics" series. For information and showtimes, call 303-752-3200.
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