Lola (1961)

Demy’s first feature is a modest, warm-spirited take on the bittersweet nature of past romances, transient acquaintances and the desire to find greener pastures. 

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Review #2,329

Dir Jacques Demy
1961 | France | Drama/Romance | 88 mins | 2.35:1 | French & English
PG (passed clean)

Cast: Anouk Aimee, Marc Michel, Jacques Harden
Plot: A bored young man meets with his former girlfriend, now a cabaret dancer and single mother, and soon finds himself falling back in love with her.
Awards: Nom. for 2 BAFTAs – Best Film from any Source, Best Foreign Actress
Source: Cine-Tamaris

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate – Love & Relationships
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Pace: Normal
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse

Viewed: Criterion Blu-ray
Spoilers: No

Long thought to be unrecoverable until Agnes Varda made it her mission in the early 1990s, following the death of Jacques Demy, to find a surviving print of Lola, her late husband’s debut feature. 

Thankfully a print was found, and although it was in an appalling state, careful restoration work helped the film to see the light of day again. 

The Criterion Blu-ray edition, which I saw, had some intermittent sound issues where dialogue and music were cut off.  Not sure if this was a disc defect or a limitation of the restoration, but in any case, Lola’s warm-spirited tone helped the narrative to coast smoothly from start to finish. 

Starring Anouk Aimee (who turns 90 next year) as the titular character, a cabaret dancer with a young boy, who in a chance encounter with Roland (Marc Michel), sparks memories of their time as childhood friends/crushes. 

“You only love once. For me, it already happened.”

This Roland could be the same Roland Cassard in Demy’s later The Umbrellas of Cherbourg.  However, Lola is waiting for her lover and father of her child, a sailor who inexplicably gone missing for seven years, to return.  

Despite not being mentioned regularly in any conversation involving the first features of the French New Wave directors, Lola deserves more attention as a modest take on the bittersweet nature of past romances, transient acquaintances and the desire to find greener pastures. 

Lola and Roland are seeing stagnancy creeping into their individual lives; they hope for a change—a cruise to the other side of the world seems tempting.  Yet they find the allure (or whatever last remnant of it) of Nantes, their city, hard to break away from. 

Demy doesn’t quite hit the ground running, but in Lola, we see glimpses of a filmmaker whose lyricism and evocation of human experiences of life and love would develop further in his next few films.  

Grade: B+



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