I’m not a big opera fan. I keep thinking something will click, so I keep trying, but try as I might, I can never get past the silliness of singing every single little line of dialogue. “How are you today, fa la la la la?” “Fine sir, and you, la la la la la?” And no, I don’t have that problem with musicals in general. Perhaps because I think people should burst into infrequent bouts of song, throughout the day. What? I do it.
There are a few exceptions. La Boheme works for me. Les Miserables totally works. Pieces with a massive, massive amount of pathos and plot-driven poetry make sense. But I need to be carried away, from the very beginning. Even better than Puccini and Val Jean, for me, at least, there are the Umbrellas of Cherbourg.
In the late 90s some time, the wife of the filmmaker finished a massive project to restore the original color to Umbrellas. There was a limited re-release, and my mom and I went to see it at the Palm. I was entranced. I went around humming that song for months. I even bought the sheet music, and I think I may have used it as a performance piece for some random audition or talent show.
I think that part of the reason I fell in love was that it connected two worlds for me. I had the world of the Palm Theater, not-so-better known as the Rainbow Theater, for us old-school kids. The best, and most frequent, connections with my mom were when we were sitting in a dark little room, sobbing to old German films or guffawing to new low-budget indie movies. The first sex scene I ever saw was in “Les liaisons dangereuses.” I wasn’t allowed to watch “Police Academy,” but I could watch that.
Then I had the world of the stage, and the many ridiculous theater productions I appeared in throughout junior high and high school, some of them musical in nature. Even though those worlds should overlap, being of a like performance based nature, they just didn’t. Musical theater was never an art-house kinda thing. You don’t see a filmed version of “Wicked” knocking Sundance off their feet.
Then Umbrellas came back, and my mom took me to see it, telling me about when she had first experienced it, brand new in the theaters. Looking at old photographs, especially the one of her on Fiji, with hair in an updo, huge eyelashes, resting her arms and head on roof of a white VW bug, poking out of the sun roof, gazing coquettishly at the camera, there’s definitely a little something Catherine Deneuve-esque in her style. She adored french film and fashion back then.
(And dang, I can’t find that photo. It keeps coming up in my screensaver, but because iPhoto is blasted and won’t open, I can’t seem to find the library of iPhoto pics I have. Anyone know a workaround for that? Or maybe… Yep, genius appointment made, let’s let the Mac boys fix it.)
So maybe it’s less the merging of those two worlds that attracts me, and more the mama connection. This is kinda a rough, bittersweet time of year, with Mother’s Day, my mom’s birthday, and the day she died all falling in the same two-month window. It feels nice to be able to enjoy Umbrellas of Cherbourg again. And y’all should go see it, too; it’s streaming on Netflix for one more day.
Oh, and an English, Connie Francis, version of that song: