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  Lola Leave Home
Year: 1961
Director: Jacques Demy
Stars: Anouk Aimée, Marc Michel, Jacques Harden, Alan Scott, Elina Labourdette, Margo Lion, Annie Duperoux, Catherine Lutz, Corinne Marchand, Yvette Anziani, Dorothée Blank, Isabelle Lunghini, Annick Noël, Ginette Valton, Anne Zamire
Genre: Drama, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  8 (from 2 votes)
Review: A man in a white stetson drives his Cadillac through the French port of Nantes, searching but not knowing if he will find what he's looking for. Meanwhile, a more aimless man, Roland (Marc Michel), has to go into work but is struggling with a conventional life as he'd rather read books, go to the cinema - and be in love. He is reminded of a girl he knew growing up, Lola (Anouk Aimée), who unbeknownst to him is living in Nantes as well, working as a dancer and entertaining the visiting sailors for money to support her son. Will Roland and Lola meet again?

French director Jacques Demy made his mark on the New Wave with this pretty, bittersweet little tale, dedicated to Max Ophuls, and echoing that filmmaker's final film, Lola Montes, in the main character of this debut, as if a torch were being passed on. Well, not so much passed on as picked up after it had been set down, as Demy was conscious of paying tribute while going his own way, adapting the conventions of French cinema and marrying them to the conventions of American, the musical form especially. This wasn't really a musical, although there is one number performed by Aimée, but the tunes on the soundtrack were integral nevertheless.

It was as if the film, as with the people it portrayed, were pulling in two directions, dreaming of the happiness that was just out of reach while trying to live with the disappointments and compromises of real life. It was a tricky balancing act, and in other hands could have come across as maudlin or gauche, but Demy knew what he wanted and in his leading lady he found someone who could embody those two aspects while having us believe she could be a real person and not dismiss her as the construct of a treacly movie. For many fans, Lola was Anouk's best role, and showed what she was capable of in a career that perhaps did not enjoy as many chances for her as it should have.

Of course, it's not only Roland and Lola who divert us here, as there was a supporting cast to comment on the central relationship too. Among them were another, older single mother, Mme Desnoyers (Elina Labourdette) who in one of many chance meetings gets to know Roland in a bookshop when he offers to give her daughter Cécile (Annie Duperoux) an English book for her studies. Like just about everyone in this, these two are lonely and wishing for more company, all too aware that the company they do have will be fleeting and won't really satisfy them, as here the connections we make, be they romantic or simply friendly, are what offers true happiness, and not everybody will achieve that.

There are points in this where Demy aims for beauty and ends up too selfconscious to quite get there, with the odd bit of slow motion standing out as a bit too much, but elsewhere, when he concentrates on the simple bonds between the characters, he produces scenes that can be surprisingly affecting for a film often described as "slight". Lola herself becomes the object of desire for three men, Roland, who she bumps into in the street and is delighted to renew their acquaintance, Franky (Alan Scott), an American sailor who briefly captivates Cécile, and Michel (Jacques Harden), the father of her child who she still hopes will return to her one day. Someone is going to be let down, and indeed most of them are in this, which for a story that is so flighty on the surface is unexpectedly melancholy and resonant once it reaches its close. You're happy for Lola, but sad for just about everyone else. Music by Michel Legrand.

[This is included on The Criterion Collection's Essential Jacques Demy box set of Blu-rays. Click here to read more. ]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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