Wednesday, January 08, 2003


A unique film, indeed. A French film in which all the dialogue is sung, it's not quite a traditional movie musical, although it certainly is a forerunner to the Lloyd Webber films like JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR and EVITA. On the surface, it's a lushly romantic movie, but by the end, it has bared its more realistic, anti-romantic heart. The bright candy-colored sets and costumes are an unusual touch, giving the film some of the sheen of the classical Hollywood musicals without making it look artificial. Catherine Deneuve plays the young daughter of a working-class woman who runs an umbrella shop which is in financial trouble. The lovely Deneuve falls in love with Nino Castelnuovo, a handsome garage mechanic. Her mother (Anne Vernon) disapproves of the match because the boy isn't rich. He is called up to fight in the war in Algeria--the film is set in the late 50's, and this sets up an interesting parallel for American viewers to our troubles in Vietnam which were escalating at the time the movie was released here. They pledge their love to each other and decide to marry when he returns; she winds up pregnant with his child and when she doesn't hear from him for months, she gives up on him and lets her mother arrange a marriage that leaves her financially well off. Years later, Deneuve and Castelnuovo meet up again on Christmas Eve in an ending that is not sentimental yet is nearly as heartbreaking as the end of WEST SIDE STORY. The jazzy pop score is relentlessly upeat, except for the famous melody, "I Will Wait For You." Perhaps the first deconstructionist musical and certainly an influence on the recent MOULIN ROUGE. Quite good.

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