Lola (1961)

Genres - Drama, Romance  |   Sub-Genres - Romantic Drama, Melodrama  |   Run Time - 95 min.  |   Countries - France, Italy  |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Mark Deming

Jacques Demy was arguably the greatest romantic of the French New Wave, and Lola was one film in which he proved how vital both sides of that equation were to his vision. While Lola exists within the same workaday France of Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut's early films, Raoul Coutard's cinematography allows Demy to find a beauty and poetry in the most ordinary circumstances; Coutard's moving camera brings the grace of a dancer to the film's visual proceedings, no matter how shabby some of the characters' circumstances may be. The narrative is so fluffy it threatens to blow away at any moment, but Demy primarily uses it as a device to focus on the emotional lives of his characters, and it is their common search for love that moves the story and keeps the film compelling. Demy's casting is nothing short of superb: Anouk Aimée is joyously radiant in the title role, and her every word and movement convey such a seductive charm that it's no wonder three men are vying for her hand; Marc Michel, Alan Scott, and Jacques Harden all resister in their own way as Lola's suitors; and Annie Duperoux is spot-on as Lola's teenage counterpart. Lola is a film whose goal is obviously to touch the heart rather than the mind, but Demy tells his simple story with such a rare blend of passion and intelligence that he's able to please the intellect as well. The result remains one of the most purely pleasurable products of the French Nouvelle Vague.