On December 16, 1964 I stood in line at the Beverly Theater on Beverly Drive in Beverly Hills waiting to see the first showing of a new French film whose title had caught my interest – The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. In the ad, there were people with umbrellas and rain, so right there I knew it was my kind of movie. And according to the ad it was a magical film with wonderful romance – right there I knew it was my kind of movie. I took my seat at noon and the film began. From the first shot, I knew it was my kind of movie – and then when the camera tilted straight down to a cobblestone street with rain pouring down and people walking with their umbrellas I was in heaven, and when five umbrellas came on the screen at the same time and the film’s title appeared (in French, Les Parapluis de Cherbourg) I was in ecstasy. But I didn’t know what real ecstasy was until Catherine Deneuve’s first appearance at the window of her mother’s umbrella shop – THAT was real ecstasy. The other thing I was completely mesmerized by was the music, even before anyone opened their mouth to sing. And I don’t think I knew going in that every word of the film was sung, but that only made me love it more just because of the sheer chutzpah of it. I became obsessed with the film, saw it a couple more times that day, and then saw it maybe seventy or eighty more times, wherever and whenever I could. I would literally drive to wherever it was playing, and because it was such a huge hit, it played a LOT over the next couple of years, frequently on a double bill with my other favorite French film, Sundays and Cybele. My love for the film has never abated for a moment – every time I revisit it I fall in love with it all over again, as if I was discovering it for the very first time. All that by way of saying that a few months ago a new Blu-ray of the film was announced, from the same people who did the Blu-ray of The Young Girls of Rochefort, Arte Video. I had despaired of ever seeing Young Girls looking the the way it should – I owned a Technicolor print of it and it was spectacularly beautiful. When the widow Demy did her disgustingly awful “restoration” of that film back in the 1990s and I went to the theater to see it, I could not believe the travesty my eyes beheld. And since all the DVD releases were from the “restoration” they, too, were travesties. But the people who restored the film for the Blu-ray release were professionals and terrific professionals at that and the result was a truly beautiful and accurate transfer from the camera negative. So, hopes were high because Arte were the folks doing the new transfer for Cherbourg from the original camera negative. No DVD release looked good – in fact they all looked terrible and were in the wrong screen ratio to boot (1.66 rather than 1.85). Yesterday, the Blu-ray arrived. I’d already read one report from someone who saw a screening of the new transfer at the Grauman’s Chinese (had I but known, I would have gone) and that report was heartening, but of course the person reporting hadn’t been alive at the time of the film’s release and therefore would have no real knowledge of its look and color. I popped it in immediately and clicked play. The first shot came up and I knew instantly it was a great transfer – that shot has never looked good on home video. Then the tilt down and the impossibly beautiful parade of the umbrellas under the main titles. Gorgeous. And then the film proper began with the shot of the gas station. Incredibly sharp and beautiful and so much detail that for the first time in seeing this film over a hundred times, maybe two hundred, I noticed that the second car that pulls in the garage, the Mercedes, is driven by Roland Cassard, a character we’ll meet in the first third of the film. I can’t believe I never caught that, but then other transfers were muddy and indistinct. Then the first shot of Deneuve and I just got all teary-eyed it was so stunning. And on it went, each shot more impossibly beautiful than the last – and the color – the eye-popping, mind-boggling stunning color, every hue of it and some so saturated that it makes your eyes hurt (in a good way) and the transfer handling every bit of it perfectly. Of course I was completely entranced by the film as I always am. It is, for me, a perfect film in every way, from the stunning direction of Jacques Demy, to the amazing camerawork of Jean Rabier, to the décor, to every single performance right down to the extras, to the incredible singers, and to the astonishing music of Michel Legrand, one of the greatest original film musical scores ever written. The film is so magical that I could watch it over and over and over again, and I’m always an emotional wreck in the film’s final moments. This is an import from France (with English subtitles) – I haven’t tried it in my US player but I’ve read that it’s locked to Region B. If you’ve ever thought about buying a multi-region Blu-ray player, this film is the perfect excuse. Of course, this gets my highest of high recommendations. It is coming out in the UK and I’m sure they’re using the same transfer, but that, too, will be region-locked.