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Nouvelle type: Jean Fouchet’s title design legacy will make you weep

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ong before La La Land, there was a French anti-musical which launched Catherine Deneuve’s iconic career and made filmgoers weep for love does not conquer all in Jacques Demy’s movie musical Les parapluies de Cherbourg (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg). 

Set in northwest France in the late 50s the drama of Geneviève, a lovesick 17-year-old and Guy, played by Deneuve and the equally charming Nino Castelnuovo, broke boundaries with its aesthetics. 

Per Nouvelle Vague’s pioneer Demy his Oscar-nominated and Palme d’Or-winning masterpiece “used color like a singing Matisse” and thanks to restorations pushed forward by Demy’s widow Agnès Varda, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg’s enchanting palette is today just as vivid 55 years after its original release. 

Eventually the title design of the soon to be re-released in UK oh-so-melancholic-it-hurts musical, set in Michel Legrand’s poetic and haunting melodies, movie by the French New Wave director Jacques Demy is a fine example of Jean Fouchet’s typography and talent. 

The opening credits, with it’s bird’s eye view of pastel bikes and titular umbrellas on a rainy day in Cherbourg, are frequently acclaimed as some of the best of all time. “Brilliantly, title designer Jean Fouchet uses the cobbles of the street as a grid that guides the typography” notes Yale Daily News of Fouchet’s pop type. Deneuve, Demy, Legrand and Fouchet were reunited in Les Demoiselles de Rochefort, another movie which displays Fouchet’s talent in introducing us to a story through typography and design. 

Fouchet was a film titles designer born in France in 1918. One of France’s most well-known title designers during the 1960s and ’70s, Fouchet began his career in film as a set designer, decorator, and assistant operator. 

In 1950, he was hired as a designer of special effects and credits for the Lax company and soon he founded his own company, F.L., with which he created title sequences, trailers, and special effects per Art of The Title.

Fouchet designed special effects for films such as The Longest Day (1962), The Train (1964), and Up To His Ears (1965) and his title sequence credits include Last Year at Marienbad (1961), Phaedra (1962),The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964), Topkapi (1964), Les Demoiselles de Rochefort (1967) and more.

Following is a tribute to Fouchet’s title design legacy before the brand new tears flood the movie theatres again.

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is released in the UK on 6 December. 

Slider images captions: Phaedra by Jules Dassin (1962),  Le Président by Henri Verneuil (1961). All images via Annyas