Lola: Masterpiece Restored A
Jacques Demy’s auspicious directorial debut, “Lola,” made in 1961, is being released in a gloriously restored version (supervised by his son) by Film Forum.
“A musical without music” is how Demy described this reverie, set in the port city of Nantes, starring the gorgeous looking Anouk Aimée as the title character, a cabaret singer awaiting the return of Michel (Jacques Hardin), her long-absent lover and the father of her child.
We learn that Michel went to the U.S. seven years ago and promised to return, when he became rich and famous. In Michel’s absence, Lola is being courted by her childhood friend Roland (Marc Michel) and an American sailor Frankie (Allan Scott).
Will Lola settle down with one of these men, while her heart still belongs to Michel?
“Lola” is dedicated to Max Ophüls and the film title obviously alludes to Ophüls’ masterpiece, “Lola Montes,” as well as to the heroine of Josef Von Sternberg’s “The Blue Angel,” the movie that made Marlene Dietrich an international sensation.
Marc Michel makes a reference to his unrequited love towards Lola, when he reappears in Demy’s 1964 masterpiece, “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg,” in which the dialogue was all sung, which won the Cannes Film Fest top award, the Palme d’Ór.
Despite a significant body of work, and the fact that he was one of the pioneer members of the New Wave, Jacques Demy and his work are little known in America—compared to Truffaut, or Godard, or Alain Resnais.
Demy was born in Port Chaeau, France on June 5, 1931. His life was cut short by an untimely death, October 27, 1990. He married Agnes Varda, another accomplished director of the New Wave (“Cleo from 5 to 7”), in 1962.
In one way or another, all of his pictures aspire to be musicals. At the time, some critics charged that he was too much of a romantic director, using popular genres in a subtle yet glamorous way.
On one level, Demy’s films are wistful, melancholy fairy tales, dealing with chance and fate and how these factors shape (and often crash) dreams and desires. Demy placed his bittersweet stories in mundane, realistic settings (often ports and small towns, but not Paris)
Demy loved women, and all of his major films concern the bittersweet stories of young femmes and their romantic desires, which often clash with the harsher surrounding reality.
Great director of actresses: Demy often worked with Catherine Deneuve and Anouk Aime, elevating both to international stardom. He also collaborated regularly with the noted composer Michel Lagrand.
Demy’s films are noted for their stylish, bitter-sweet romanticism, meticulous mise-en-scene, and superlative production values. This is evident in his very first film, “Lola,” in which every moment, every encounter, and every frame is staged and shot with remarkable precision and attention to detail, laced with a affection, some irony, and more than anything else joy and delight that he wished to share with his audiences.
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