on August 11, 2010
Lola is a beautiful French film that has a level of sophistication that one rarely sees in cinema. This story falls into the categories of drama and romance, but it has a magical quantity to it that truly makes it special. Its magic is sure to charm you.
The movie revolves around a cabaret dancer named Cecile, who is better known by her stage name Lola. A couple of guys express some interest in her, but they are not quite what she is looking for. An American sailor named Frankie enjoys spending time with her, but he is very casual about their relationship. Lola also happens to bump into her childhood friend named Roland. They knew each other before the war (WWII) and he is more than a little eager to be with her. Finding out which way her heart will go is all part of the fun (and there is more to the story than just this). Both Roland and Frankie meet a young girl and her mother. There are some parallels between Lola and the young girl. The symmetry between them is unmistakable.
At first glance it may seem that the story is a bit chaotic, as there is so much going on. But at the story progresses, one sees that the characters of the story move like a tango. With the departure of one, sees the arrival of another. Nearly every detail and character is important to the story.
Lola is Jacques Demy's first feature film. Although there are about two-dozen films called "Lola," this 1961 classic is original and unforgettable. It is a delightful film that is sure to appeal to those who enjoy world cinema.
on January 17, 2012
My next four reviews continue my Nouvelle Vague preference, but this time with (Paris) Rive gauche (Left Bank of the Seine River) productions: After Demy's Lola his wife Agnès Varda's Cléo (1962), Resnais' La guerre est finie (1966), and finally Chris Marker and other short films by the Rive gauche auteurs Varda and Resnais. Lola, produced by Georges de Beauregard and Carlo Ponti, is dedicated to Max Ophüls (1902-57), another auteur before its Nouvelle Vague time, written and directed by Jacques Demy. Camera, in black and white, is by Raoul Coutard, one of the leading Nouvelle Vague cameramen of early and later Godard, Truffaut and others. Original music is by Michel Legrand. Script girl is Truffaut's regular Suzanne Schiffman.
Anouk Aimée, main actress of the title role, had already played in Le Rideau cramoisi (1952) and Les Mauvaises Rencontres (1955), both by Alexandre Astruc, Les Amants de Montparnasse (1957) by Jacques Becker, La tête contre les murs (1958) by Georges Franju, La Dolce Vita (1960) by Fellini, and then, after Lola, in his 8½ (1962), and, most famously, in Un homme et une femme (1966) and Viva la vie (1983), both by Claude Lelouch - and many more. Though Lola did poorly at the box office at the time, it certainly established Anouk Aimée and Jacques Demy as leading figures, and introduced Corinne Marchand, later Varda's Cléo, in a small but significant side role as a dancer.
Somewhat in contrast to so many internationally known names, Lola, a true romance, plays in the provincial port town of Nantes, South of Brittany, but with US Navy ships calling in at neighbouring Cherbourg. The people living in Nantes, like some US Navy crew, are very well chosen and, despite the lack of big actor names (except for Lola) give a credible and plausible background to the story. France, it should be recalled, came out of World War II in 1944 but subsequently fought two colonial wars: Indochina and Algeria. After losing the war in Indochina in 1954, the even fiercer Algerian War started the same year. Due to the large number of European settlers, Algeria was particularly problematic. General de Gaulle's re-accession to power in 1958 in the middle of the crisis ultimately led to the independence of Algeria with the 1962 Evian Accords.
Likewise, the Treaty of Rome, the international agreement that led to the founding of the European Economic Community, came into effect on 1 January 1958. It is a generally accepted view today that the origin of modern economic France starts with that event. So much of the real world of Lola still deals with the immediate past, the three wars still omnipresent, and many adjustment problems ahead. It should only be another ten years to May 1968, which triggered Gaullism without de Gaulle. Nantes, around 1960, seems free of major changes, though some people leave for Paris or overseas. But that is the exception rather than the rule.
So a society in transition, with the old as ballast and not much new in sight, the political instability cause and effect of lacking directions. Near the existentialist philosophy of the time, but at a much more pedestrian level, stagnant waters. While topic-wise a very set melodrama, the cinematographic treatment is light, using many mirrors, glass and stairs, dynamic, bursting with life. The happy ending fits well, with a tear in the eye of all, and it remains an absolute mystery why Lola, when it first came out, did so poorly at the box office: I hold as equal to Chabrol's, Godard's, and Truffaut's first movies!