Les Parapluies du 14ème

Walter Frisch
Les Parapluies du 14ème

As a Fellow at the Institute for Ideas and Imagination, I am doing research for a book on the classic 1964 French musical film Les parapluies de Cherbourg (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg), written and directed by Jacques Demy, with music by Michel Legrand. The film’s title sequence (générique) is renowned for its aerial perspective on the people of Cherbourg walking in the rain with their colorful umbrellas. One rainy morning in late September 2023, from the window of my fourth-floor apartment in the 14th arrondissement in Paris, I looked down to see families passing by on their way to the elementary school down the block, their umbrellas open. I took my iPhone to film them from above, as a kind of spontaneous homage to the opening of Les parapluies de Cherbourg. No music could rival Legrand’s magical score, but I chose as a soundtrack the haunting main theme from the first movement of Maurice Ravel’s Piano Trio, whose repeating pattern and steady rhythm are characteristic of walking—and of rain.

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