87 minutes

Before his groundbreaking, all-singing Les Parapluies de Cherbourg (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg), the late Jacques Demy had already toyed with the idea of the musical film in his feature debut Lola - a stylized, fresh take on Max Ophüls' La Ronde following a group of unwittingly interconnected characters in his hometown of Nantes. But this most freeform of melancholy romances is actually music-free, though it retains a unique musicality in its step, evoking clichés of the American musical (sailors on shore leave, cabaret hookers with a heart of gold, boy-meets-girl structures) and displacing them into the heady, speedy, streetwise naturalism of the French Nouvelle Vague (Lola was shot in black and white widescreen by the movement's key DP Raoul Coutard, though Mr. Demy never actually belonged to its main stream).

     More interesting is how the slender plot of criss-crossed encounters in the streets of Nantes is magically woven by Mr. Demy's fearless style, all roving handheld cameras, and his effortless mastery of the various plot relays centred around nominal heroine Lola (Anouk Aimée), portrayed as a symbol for all the illusions each and every character believes in. Additionally, Lola is a sort of matrix, both narrative and stylistic, of all of the director's later work, in its carefree combination of the contagiously joyous and the heartbreaking melancholy, with many of the film's scenes being echoed in later works (not least in the re-emergence of the central star-crossed lovers and their performers, Ms. Aimée's Lola and Marc Michel's moody childhood friend Roland, as characters in, respectively, Model Shop and Les Parapluies de Cherbourg). Lola is a superb, moving classic that is simply not seen enough.

Starring Anouk Aimée, Marc Michel, Jacques Harden, Alan Scott; and Elina Labourdette.
     Directed and written by Jacques Demy; music by Michel Legrand; director of photography (b&w, Franscope widescreen), Raoul Coutard; production designer, Bernard Evein; film editors, Anne-Marie Cotret, Monique Teisseire. 
     A Carlo Ponti/Georges de Beauregard production for Rome-Paris Films. (Original French distributor, Unidex. World sales, Ciné-Tamaris.)
     Screened: Cinemateca Portuguesa - Felix Ribeiro Theatre (Lisbon), October 7th 2011. 


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