Lola - DVD Review

'excels as a technical exercise in film making but only excites around half as much as it needs to in terms of its romance'

Emanating a Gallic charm which is perfectly atypical of why people still love to watch French movies from the sixties, Lola excels as a technical exercise in film making but only excites around half as much as it needs to in terms of its romance.

It's not that director Jacques Demy creates a cold technical marvel that forgets all chemistry, rather that, like the film which bears the same moniker, something is 'lost in translation', a fact not helped by the very literal English subtitles on this new DVD release. Lola's (Anouk Aimée) sexual relationship with US sailor Frankie (Alan Scott) and will they/won't they encounters with former best-friend Roland (Marc Michel) both feel somewhat forced and more than a little distant. Neither romance really grabs you, whilst the impending return of husband Michel (Jacques Harden) also fails to create the excitement in the audience that both Lola and his mother (Margo Lion) attempt to convey.

Where Demy is more successful is in his notional exploration of small town insularity, an idea that inherently leads to those of escape and personal betterment. Come the end of the film, four of the characters mentioned above plus one other major character, have all left Nantes to what they believe will be better lives. But where are they all going really? Two are whisked away in a romance that appears to be intentionally presented as fake, two will be stuck on ships for the foreseeable future, one involved in a criminal enterprise. It's difficult to call and Demy, mainly though Roland, makes us consider the options (including that of the power of a first love), at length.

Demy's real triumph with Lola is in the reflection of his themes in his visuals, an approach which saw the film nominated for a BAFTA in 1963. The second time we enter the cafe scene with Roland, Michel's mother and Claire (Catherine Lutz), the owner, Demy perfectly choreographs all of them circling round, using a single camera and relying on the actors hitting their marks to consistently end with one or two of them populating the 'rule of thirds' - a technique which creates attractive visuals, keeping the character, rather than the background, in our immediate focus. In another scene, Demy zooms in from an exterior to Roland's cell-like bedroom above the cafe, a representation of his themes in a microcosm if ever there was one. For these reasons alone Lola will justifiably be remembered fondly by many, it's just a shame that its core plot doesn't quite survive the same level of assessment.




Lola is available on DVD in the UK from 6th September.

Look further...

'a series of contrived romantic adventures that elicits a velveteen agony no sensible adult could possibly mistake for the real thing' - Film Freak Central, 3.5/4

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