Tag Archives: classic

umbrellas-open

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg

1964 French cinematic opera, composed by Michel Legrand and starring stunning Catherine Deneuve, began as a passionate love story of an umbrella store sales girl and an auto mechanic.  The sight of people walking the rainy cobble streets of Cherbourg under the colorful umbrellas, set to the most romantic music of all times, built an anticipation of the strong feelings overcoming everything and anything.   There was no force in the Universe powerful enough to keep 17-year-old Genevieve and 20-year-old Guy apart.   They were madly in love, cherishing every moment they spent together.   The scene at the train station, with Genevieve weeping, singing  heart-breaking “I Will Wait For You” to her beloved Guy going away to the war in Algeria, left no doubt that the song promise would be kept.

However, the long distance relationship did not last long.  After a few months of loneliness, waiting for an occasional letter, pregnant Genevieve decided to marry the wealthy diamond dealer.  Guy did not die of a heart-break either.  He married his aunt’s nurse shortly after his return from the war.

They met accidentally at Guy’s gas station, four years later.  Both had families with a child named Francese (the name they’ve decided on before the split).  The snow was falling; Genevieve got out of her car and followed Guy inside the gas station featuring a huge Christmas tree decorated by his wife and son.  Polite greetings followed. She offered him to meet his daughter, waiting in the car, but he did not seem too excited about it.  They parted shortly after, mostly likely never destined to meet again. The entire scene was accompanied by “I Will Wait For You”.

The movie is incredibly beautiful; at times enormously poignant and dreamy, at times tearing your heart out.  Based on the melody, I want to believe that they still love each other, and their lack of emotions is just an act to preserve their new lives each has created without the other.  In any case, the story line and the musical subtext are utterly at odds.  I got quite confused by this disconnect.

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is not the only European classic that has an unclear end.  In fact, most of them do.  Various circumstances easily push the love birds apart, making them pursue options more suitable for comfortable, secure life.  Living for a moment rather than a lifetime seems to be a recurring theme.  Jumping in the sea of love usually follows by doing what makes sense, and cherishing the happy memories.

American classics, on the other hand, always have a happy end.  It does not matter what comes next, how long it would last, how poor/sick/ insane you may become, or how many other people would be unhappy as a result of your happiness; LOVE is all that matters.  Happy end is the ultimate goal that gives the movie its purpose.   Consequently, Americans (at least in the movies) are much more likely to commit spontaneous, emotional acts of insanity, otherwise known as love, for a longer period of time. And I’ve always thought Americans were the more pragmatic ones.

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Sunflower

I am not a movie critic; I cannot judge the quality of a script, or lighting, or camera work, or how much money it makes in the box office.  I rate the movies I watch based on my emotional barometer.   If it stays on 0 marks, I’ve wasted my time; if it goes off the scale, I’ve made a good choice.  Sunflower, Italian drama directed by Vittorio De Sica with Sophia Loren (Giovanna) and Marcello Mastroianni (Antonio) playing the leads, is a good choice.

My son did not do well on his Italian test.  In my attempt to help him improve his listening skills, I’ve decided to watch the movie in Italian with English subtitles.  New Italian phrases and words were not the only things he got out of this movie.

Sunflower is about love and war, about humanity and hope.  Giovanna and Antonio got married and, then he simulated the mental illness to postpone his deployment to Africa, but happiness did not last long.  After the authorities discovered that he was faking insanity, he was forced to volunteer to Russia (2nd World War).  He did not come back, but Giovanna felt that he was alive, and traveled to Russia to find him.  He had another family with a Russian woman and a little daughter.  She fled back to Italy, and eventually created a family with a co-worker.  Antonio and Giovanna met briefly at the end, but decided to part their separate ways.

The plot is not unique; it has been told in many books and movies.  The war devastated a lot of families, mixed things up. It was not that unusual for the people to wait for the loved ones to return for many years, or the person thought to be dead come back alive.  What striked me the most was how Vittorio De Sica portrayed it in the movie.  As they say: “The devil is in the details.”  I’ve watched a lot of movies about the war, Russian and American, yet “Sunflower” made it very real for me.  The women standing on the train station meeting the soldiers coming from the war, holding the pictures of their loved ones, hoping someone would recognize them.  The procession of Italian soldiers barely walking in the gruesome Russian winter, with wind blowing into their faces, biting into the flesh.   Look on the Antonio friend’s face, considering whether he should try to drag him, or leave him, and let him die in the snow.  The lone log cabin in the middle of the snow-covered field packed with Russian soldiers, sleeping standing up.  Historical black and white footage of women and children digging the graves.  Never-ending rows of simple wooden crosses with the names of Italian soldiers written on them.  The most beautiful sunflower field planted on burial ground.  There was no shooting, no screaming, no sound of bombs or artillery; only silence-silence, that spoke louder than words.

My son expected the happy end; he was quite disappointed. Isn’t it the point of the movie to make the good guy win, love birds reunite, and live happily ever after?

What I like about this movie is its simplicity.   There was no blood running with limbs piling up the battlefield, no transformers discharging gigantic bullets from their enormous guns while making wild sounds; no aliens invading the Earth; and Superman did not come to the rescue either.   Characters did not drown their tears in drugs and alcohol, and hair was not pulled out  from their respective heads (except occasional ripping off pictures and breaking the dishes).  There was no cursing and yelling, and no corpses to speak of.  There were a man and a woman, and their story.  They did not say many words to each other,  their time together was brief, yet it made it all worthwhile.

 

Breakfast at Tiffany

rain-breakfast-at-tiffanys-320This beautiful movie with Audrey Hepburn and George Peppart is a nice romantic fairy tale. Spending Sunday night watching the old Hollywood classics was very therapeutic.   Holy, a sensual, delicate, yet impulsive creature made Paul, the poor writer, fall in love with her.  She played him few times, not intentionally of course.  She was confused herself, jumping from one rich man to the next, trying to build a decent life for herself.  I enjoyed the glamour and elegance of New York socialites in the 60th, with Audrey Hepburn’s iconic little black dress, box shaped jacket with pants and simple orange coat with large buttons.

I am not convinced that a passionate kiss in the rain, with Holy covering her abandoned and then immediately saved soaking-wet cat with her trench, will transpire into ever-lasting love; but it, certainly, adds a lot of drama to the final scene.