The French new wave has not impressed me much so far. Only a few of them have so far gotten under my skin, but with “Lola” I can finally add a movie to that fairly short list. “Lola” was a far better movie than I had expected, but then again, I did not really expect much to begin with.
“Lola” is a very quiet movie, not in term loudness, it has its moments of shouting, but it is oddly subdued as if this is a regular story about regular people. The curious thing is that these characters are not that regular, they are just acted as if they are. Perfectly natural and understandable, struggling with issues we all recognize as both very basic and high brow existential. And that is the magic, that it actually works.
The story centers on Lola (Anouk Aimée), a dancer at an entertainment parlor (or nightclub?) and a single mother to a seven-year-old boy. Lola is gorgeous. In her dancing outfit and full make-up she is the image that men desires and she has enough suitors who think they love her. For Lola being a flirt is a job, but it also makes her very lonely. Because of her stunning appearance few people get further than that and she longs for that first love of hers, the father of her son. Michel, as he is called disappeared back before he was born and she has never heard from him since, yet he is the symbol of her salvation and the reason she cannot commit to anybody else.
Frankie (Alan Scott) is an American sailor in town who courts Lola. It is clear that he thinks himself in love with Lola, but he is probably just an image that reminds her of Michel. A relationship that is reversed when Frankie meets Cécile (Annie Duperoux), a 14 year old girl who believe Frankie is her great love. Cécile is clearly a young version of Lola, repeating her story.
And then there is Roland (Marc Michel), a restless dreamer who is going through life searching for something, but cannot put his finger on it. He knew Lola as a teenager and when he meets her again he thinks she is his purpose, that she is that first love he can never shake. It is also he who tells Cécile about life’s first love and he in turn is the hope of Cécile’s mother, a lonely widower.
Everybody are looking for somebody else. Everybody have their hopes pinned on that elusive dream, but if it is just a dream, what are the chances they will find it. The movie creates these circles, telling us that the story repeats itself and that the dream is fairly hopeless. There is a great sadness and even desperation to that, but just as we are about to lose up it just might happen as when Michel’s mother suddenly sees the son she has been longing to see for so many years.
I like this interconnectedness, it is such a common theme, but something that usually works. Here it is perfect to illustrate the repetition of fate and it enables us to see the story from more sides. It is good direction that allows us to feel sympathy and understanding all the way round.
This is also a movie with a lot of dialogue and I like that. Mostly the talk is not very important and yet it is because it is a perfect window into the lives of these characters and I felt myself drawn in to the dialogue.
Then again it is also a movie borne by excellent actors. Anouk Aimée is a perfect cast as Lola. Her appearance is exactly that distraction, that image, she is supposed to be, but with her son she suddenly become three-dimensional. It is quite incredible. Marc Michel I liked in Le Trou and he projects the dreamer perfectly. He is quiet and sincere and desperately passionate underneath.
It is difficult to say anything negative about “Lola”, except maybe that it is a movie that takes some time and focus to get into. It takes a while before you realize what this is actually about and until then it feels random. But when clarity emerge it is a beautiful story. And if you have been away from your son for a while the ending will go straight to your heart.