Soundtrack Lovin’: The Umbrellas of Cherbourg
William Thornton reviews his favourite soundtrack, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg.
When it comes to talking about my favourite soundtracks, I could go on for an eternity. For me, nothing helps make a film work more than its music. Some of my favourites include the classical soundtrack of Amadeus, the infamously well-fitting Trainspotting compilation album, and the synth-laden soundscapes of the likes of Drive and Blade Runner. But, my love of great soundtracks isn’t bound to just films; there are so many TV shows that have just as good, if not better, soundtracks. The eery yet strangely comforting soundtrack to Twin Peaks. The mind-blowingly complex jazz album of Cowboy Bebop. But I’m here to talk about one album in particular. I did have a hard time choosing, and it was a tight call between Simon and Garfunkel’s soundtrack to The Graduate and the incredible Morricone soundtrack to Once Upon a Time in the West. In the end, I decided to go with the absolutely beautiful soundtrack to my favourite musical of all time: The Umbrellas of Cherbourg.
inspired countless other films that came after it e.g. the fantastic La La Land
This Jacques Demy new-wave classic stars the ever-iconic Catherine Deneuve and Nico Castelnuovo. It’s the romance. The insanely talented Michel Legrand is behind the film’s unforgettable soundtrack and for those fond of musicals, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg will no-doubt seem familiar to new viewers. This is for good reason: the film is an incredibly influential musical, and has inspired countless other films that came after it e.g. the fantastic La La Land, which pays an astounding amount of homage to the French classic. This is all warranted. The film is simply astonishing, full of beautiful cinematography and a story that’s both heart-breaking and heart-warming. But the incredible soundtrack is by-far the standout character of the film, and the reason as to why it holds up so well in the history of musicals.
Beginning with the jazzy and extremely catchy ‘Scène du Garage’, the film starts as it means to go on, with all the characters’ dialogue being sung in-time with the swinging soundtrack. A heart-swelling picture is painted of the romance between twenty-year-old mechanic Guy, and seventeen-year-old Genevière, an assistant in the titular umbrella shop. We see the pair go on a night-out together, with the first act of the film being full of charming and delightful tracks such as ‘Sur le Quai’ that show us the touching love between the young couple. But of course, all’s not well. As the film goes on, tragedy strikes the pair, as Guy is drafted to fight in the Algerian war and has to leave Genevière alone in Cherbourg. This act of the film reaches its climax alongside the main theme ‘Devant le Garage’, which many viewers will recognise as the English hit ‘I will Wait for You’, an incredibly famous song, and by far the film’s most emotional and daresay sublime track.
Of course, the whole film is packed with amazing songs, and the entire soundtrack is absolutely beautiful and works so perfectly with the accompanying visuals and performances. Ever since I got the chance to watch The Umbrellas of Cherbourg at the BFI with my girlfriend last December, this film has held a special place in my heart. It’s all thanks to Legrand’s incredible composition, which helped to create a film that stands out as one of the most impactful and heartrending movies ever made.