When the best Hollywood can offer as a VDay-themed date movie is He's Just Not That Into You , the work of a true dreamer like Jacques Demy tugs at the heart even more. Demy's extraordinary The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964) is a heartbreaking love story in which every syllable is sung, with the director's dialogue set to the music of frequent collaborator Michel Legrand. This opulent feast for the eyes and ears — romantic but never maudlin — might be best described as a lollipop-hued melodrama darkened by the loss of youthful ideals. The hopeful lovers of the story are Guy (Nino Castelnuovo), a mechanic who lives with his ailing godmother, and Genevieve (Catherine Deneuve), a proper jeune fille, who helps her widowed mother run her pastel-striped-umbrella shop. When their plans for marriage are thwarted by Guy's summons for military duty in Algeria, Genevieve croons the film's best-known song, “I Will Wait for You,” one of the most wrenching accounts of heartache set to music. But she can wait only so long: Pregnant with Guy's child but feeling forgotten by him, Genevieve succumbs to her mother's wishes and marries a financially secure merchant. Guy returns to Cherbourg bitter and angry, but finds some happiness with his aunt's caretaker. Years later, Guy and Genevieve see each other by chance at his snow-blanketed Esso station, their youthful exuberance now supplanted by adult resignation. Cherbourg was Demy's greatest success: It won the Grand Prix at Cannes in 1964 and made Catherine Deneuve, only 20 at the time of the film's release, an international star. “He was the first real filmmaker that I met,” Deneuve once said of Demy, who would make three more films with the actress. But Demy was more than a filmmaker — he was a creator of an inimitable cinematic world of sumptuous colors, exquisite music and ever-flowing tears.
For those who prefer to remain dry-eyed on St. Valentine's Day, check out the Thelma Ritter comedy double-bill at the UCLA Film and Television Archive: George Cukor's The Model and the Marriage Broker and Mitchell Leisen's The Mating Season (both from 1951). One year after her indelible performance as the wisecracking Birdie in All About Eve , Ritter shows in both films why she's one of American cinema's greatest character actresses, delivering zingers that pierce like Cupid's arrow. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg : New Beverly, 7156 Beverly Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., Feb. 13-14; $7, $6 students; $4 seniors & children; www.newbevcinema.com; Thelma Ritter films: Billy Wilder Theater, Courtyard Level, Hammer Museum, 10899 Wilshire Blvd., Westwood; Sat., Feb. 14, 7:30 p.m.; $9. (310) 206-8013.

Fri., Feb. 13, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., Feb. 14, 3:15 & 7:30 p.m., 2009

LA Weekly