22 April 2008
Demy’s Lola is dedicated to Max Ophuls. On life he says: “It’s always beautiful in the movies,” and I (obviously!) agree. Especially in the movies with deep-voiced American midshipmen speaking in French accents.
The men in Lola: tall, handsome, seafaring, trumpet-purchasing, learning a second language, strumming idly onstringed instruments, leaving and about to leave.
The women in Lola: lithe, beautiful, world-weary, dancing, falling in love at Carnival, learning a second language, hair-tossing, explosively-dimpled, solemn on the topic of love.
The men and the women in Lola: convinced first love is the only real love.
The opening is a Fellini dream: an unknown man rolling through town in white convertible and suit. His figure continues to move through the film like a ghost (The Past always has to be a wraith I suppose).
Anouk Aimee is Lola (the song she repeatedly has to practice, and that we never see performed, is helpfully titled, "It's Me, Lola"), working as a dancer at cabaret translated as “The El Dorado,” but the place-name is spelled out in script: L’eldorado. So much more charming that way. (We can only hope that our Lola is a better dancer than Lola Montes in the Ophuls film.)
Aimee's love interest, Roland, is so serious he has his own charm as well. Here’s what I’d like to say to a woman someday: “I got fired, went to a movie, and met you.” A full day.
Many characters are doubles: Seaman Frankie is Lola’s stand-in for first love Michel, another blond sailor fond of taking 14 year old girls to the bumper cars. Lola herself is doubled by Cecile (Lola’s real name), a girl on the brink of her 14th birthday who so resembles a time warp Lola that our shy protagonist Roland is taken by her immediately. Shots, sequences, musical phrases and more are repeated in Lola's grand seaside cycles.
Lola is a gorgeous glut of natural light (Raoul Coutard cementing again his G.O.A.T. status). On the second morning when the white truck rolls by Roland and Lola in the café it reflects so much light through the window that the whole shot goes almost blind white, just as the music swells—a violin piece Roland might have played once.
The film's pinnacle is Young Cecile on the spinning carnival ride with (the slightly pedophilic but mostly likable) Frankie, smiling so freely my heart skipped a beat. The film itself actually breaks into slow motion as they leap out onto the boardwalk. This moment is transcendent because it is both a present tense sequence and a flashback to the young Lola and Michel, their own Carnival love at first sight. “Good day, Frankie,” says the youngster as they part by the sea.
Everyone and everything is lovely down to Roland’s older lady friend at the bar, who paints seascapes from her table. She may also be a poet, telling us at dawn that “the sky has run into the sea—it looks like a melted candle.” Once upon a time, she danced too.