Actor Nino Castelnuovo, who died at the age of 84, starred in one of the indisputable masterpieces of French cinema of the 1960s: Jacques Demy’s heartbreaking and visually ravishing musical Les Parapluies de Cherbourg ( 1964).
Castelnuovo was tender and endearing in the role of Guy, the handsome mechanic in love with Geneviève (Catherine Deneuve), who works in her mother’s umbrella shop. Their romance is interrupted when Guy is summoned to do his military service in the Algerian War. Immediately after breaking this news to Geneviève, the crying couple, filmed from the waist up, are carried smoothly down the street like on a treadmill. The scene suggests their trance-like shock state while alluding to forces beyond their control.
Geneviève gives birth to Guy’s child while he is away, but when the former lovers reunite six years later, their life has definitely changed. Guy, bruised and disillusioned by his war experiences, is no longer so dashing or carefree. None of them are single.
The vibrant primary colors of the previous scenes are thin on the floor, as is the idealism of lovers, but it is also true that they have evolved and matured.
The final scene, which takes place on a snowy night in Guy’s Esso garage now, is a perfect marriage between the lyrical and the everyday. “Is this the saddest happy ending of all movies, or the happiest sad ending?” asked critic Jim Ridley. “The beauty and depth of Demy’s vision is that it’s both. “
Two compositions from the film – I Will Wait For You and Watch What Happens – have become popular standards. But for the most part, Michel Legrand’s score is not made up of individualized songs but of entirely sung dialogues, as in the opera. (None of the cast members sing themselves; Castelnuovo is voiced by José Bartel.)
Just as the banal decor of the port is made alive and shimmering by Demy’s visual panache, so one of the pleasures of the film is the contrast between the banality and the pragmatism of the daily exchanges, and the richness of the music that brings them to life. accompanied.
The Umbrellas of Cherbourg were part of the director’s seaside trilogy, sandwiched between Lola (1961), set in Nantes, and Les Demoiselles de Rochefort (1967). It won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, was nominated for five Oscars (including Best Foreign Language Film) and remains widely adored today. Damien Chazelle, director of the musical La La Land (2016), called it “the most overwhelming and transporting work of art I have ever seen in any medium.”
Deneuve’s career took off internationally after the film was released; Castelnuovo continued to work but did less well. His subsequent films included Edgar G Ulmer’s Swan Song The Cave (1964), A New World by Vittorio De Sica and the spaghetti western Massacre Time, as well as The Creatures, a film by Demy’s wife, Agnès Varda, which also starred Deneuve (all in 1966). In 1967, he became a star in Italy with the television series Les Fiancés, which takes place in the 17th century. He later claimed that Pope Paul VI, who was apparently a fan of the show, had asked to meet him.
Born in Lecco, Italy, Nino was the son of Emilia Paola (née Sala), a maid, and Camillo Castelnuovo, who worked in a button factory. He held jobs as a mechanic and painter while pursuing his interest in gymnastics and dance. After studying drama at the Piccolo Theater in Milan, he appeared as a mime on children’s television before landing a small role in The Virtuous Bigamist (1956) and his first credited role in the thriller The Facts of Murder (1959) .
He starred with Alain Delon in the magnificent drama Rocco et ses frères by Luchino Visconti, alongside director Pier Paolo Pasolini in The Hunchback of Rome (both in 1960), and with Tony Curtis and Monica Vitti in the medieval caper On my way to the crusades, I Met a girl who… (1967).
He was in the western-cum-burglary film The 5-Man Army, co-written by Dario Argento and scored by Ennio Morricone, and the erotic drama Camille 2000. In the coat rack Love and Anger (1969) he appeared in Jean -Contribution of Luc Godard, l’Amore.
His work in the ’70s and’ 80s, including the Star Wars Star Odyssey (1979) scam, was largely limited to local film and television. In the 1980s his profile rose in Italy when he appeared in a television commercial for corn oil, in which he was shown jumping over a fence as proof of his very kindness. in middle age.
A brief return to international cinema came when Anthony Minghella chose him as an archaeologist in the Oscar-winning romantic epic The English Patient (1996). He played an unscrupulous judge in the Italian TV series Tuscan Passion, which ran from 2013 to 2015, and his last credit was in the TV movie The Legacy Run (2016), a crime drama set in the sports world. .
He is survived by his wife, Maria Cristina Di Nicola, and a son, Lorenzo, from a previous relationship with actor Danila Trebbi.