Parapluies De Cherbourg (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg)-Michel Legrand
Michel Legrand’s abundantly lyrical soundtrack to Jacques Demy’s 1964 movie musical The Umbrellas of Cherbourg faithfully evokes the film’s predominant theme of young love foiled by adult reality. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg’s overriding melancholia finds a voice in two main melodic motifs Legrand uses throughout the soundtrack, the first from the Legrand jazz standard “Watch What Happens” and the second from his song “I Will Wait for You.” Legrand’s considerable arranging abilities are on display here as he works the recurring themes through a variety of settings: tragic duets cloaked in dramatic string passages, broken-down cabaret soliloquies, and even a tango piece à la Astor Piazzolla. A prevalent jazz waltz theme also seesaws its way through the score, providing a break from the gloom. As with his later Demy soundtrack, The Young Girls of Rochefort, Legrand does integrate jazz into the mix, but not in such pervasive fashion; occasional big-band outbursts and light jazz backgrounds ultimately take a back seat to Legrand’s preferred chanson mode. Combining Debussy’s opaque melodies and Richard Rodgers song economy, he transforms the whimsical French song of Piaf and Trenet into petite arias. For Legrand it comes down to the song, and there are plenty of good ones on The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. ~ Stephen Cook.