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Catherine Deneuve celebration in LA - 'The Umbrellas of Cherbourg'

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At a stunning age 70, Catherine Deneuve is certainly an icon of French Cinema and deserves every, and any accolade that film societies, festivals, or movie chains wish to bestow upon her. This Friday, March 14, The Landmark Theatre kicks off a two-week, two-film celebration that bookend (to date) the actress’ 112-film career. Opening at The Nuart on Friday, is a digitally restored “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg.” (The following Friday, March 21, opens Deneuve’s latest film “On My Way” at The Landmark).

One of the most beloved musical films of classic cinema, “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” celebrates its 50th Anniversary and happily for cineastes also receives a colorful restoration for its special re-release. Written and directed by acclaimed French filmmaker, Jacques Demy, Deneuve was only 20-years-old when she starred in this French operatic musical, with every word of dialog sung. With Michel Legrand’s score, “Umbrellas” won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 1964, and was later nominated for five Academy Awards.

In the film, Deneuve stars as Genevieve an umbrella store clerk who falls in love with a mechanic named Guy (Nino Castelnuovo). Sharing a passionate night before Guy goes off to fight in the Algerian War, their romance continues through letters, which become less frequent over time. Genevieve’s mother insists her now pregnant daughter forget about the mechanic, but can she?

Over the recent years, many of the color prints in theatrical circulation were faded, so being able to view a restored version at a great arthouse theatre like The Nuart is a treat. And for interested film enthusiasts, the press notes concerning the special release of “Umbrellas” outline details about the restoration process:

The original negative was shot on Kodak 5251 film (50 ISO) and mounted onto ten reels measuring 2500 m in total. In 1964, at the time of the film’s release, this negative was used to produce an interpositive and three internegatives, two of which were designed for export. Either intuiting the future importance of Umbrellas, or regretting not having shot the film in Technicolor, Jacques Demy asked the laboratory to print separation masters based on the original negative consisting of three prints: one bearing the “red” image, the second the “green” image, and the third the “blue” image. The separations were not suitable for printing, but their silver image possesses an (almost) unfailing durability. They were usually designed for conservation purposes and for the future production of new print elements. The sound was restored and remixed in Dolby Stereo based on the original magnetic tapes.

Launching the Nuart Theatre’s exclusive one-week run and as a special event, Oscar-winner George Chakiris (“West Side Story”) will appear at the Friday, March 14, 7:30 p.m. show. Chakiris starred in “The Young Girls of Rochefort” which also showcased the talents of Demy, Legrand and Deneuve. Chakiris will discuss with moderator Debra Levine of artsmeme.com what it was like working with this talented trio.

For Catherine Deneuve fans, as well as film musical and history buffs, the digitally restored version of “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” is one not to miss.

“The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” is 91 minutes, Not Rated, and in French with English subtitles.

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