Aesthetics for Birds

Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art for Everyone

Sandy Shapshay on “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg

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This is entry #18 in our ongoing 100 Philosophers, 100 Artworks, 100 Words Series.

Philosopher: Sandy Shapshay (Indiana University)

Artwork: The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (Les Parapluies de Cherbourg) (1964). French musical film directed by Jacques Demy, starring Catherine Deneuve and Nino Castelnuovo. Music by Michel Legrand. 

Words: Musicals (both theatrical and film) strike me as the Gesamtkunstwerke of recent times. Might some afford the kind of ‘metaphysical comfort’ that Nietzsche claimed for Greek tragedy and Wagner’s music dramas? Indeed, there is a melancholy comfort to be found here in the juxtaposition of a highly artificial genre–all of the dialogue is recitatively sung, including dialogue about fixing cars—and a frank realism about love as impermanent and grand passions as fleeting. By the end you understand the threat of that haunting musical theme, but the stunning spectacle enables you to really hear it. 

One Comment

  1. And let us not forget the follow-up by the same director: The Young Girls of Rochefort.
    Released in 1964 and 1967, respectively, the two films seem so out of synch with what we think the 1960s were all about that they have a degree of surrealism. Baz Luhrmann seems a current exemplar of the same aesthetic.

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