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Jacques Demy, Lola

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Jacques Demy, Lola (1961, DVD released on December 9, 2003)
It must be said that I am a nut for the movies of Jacques Demy, and I am slowly working my way through all of the films he made that I haven't seen yet. In the first Demy movie I ever saw, perhaps his greatest, Les Parapluies de Cherbourg (1964), there is a supporting character named Roland Cassard (Marc Michel), the older, wealthier man who marries Geneviève (Catherine Deneuve). This character actually predates the movie, as the central role of Demy's Lola (1961), played by the same actor, with Anouk Aimée as the flighty bombshell title character. Even the music that Demy's composer collaborator Michel Legrand used for Roland Cassard in Les Parapluies de Cherbourg comes from this earlier movie.

Also on Ionarts:

Peau d'âne (December 27, 2005)

Michel Legrand Interview (August 26, 2005)

La Deneuve in Cannes (May 13, 2005)

Le Jazz in Saint-Germain (May 8, 2005)

Agnès Varda, Jacquot de Nantes (February 19, 2005)
The movie is set in Nantes, where Demy grew up, including some famous scenes actually shot in the celebrated Passage Pommeraye, one of those indoor commercial walking streets popular in the 20th century in France. Cassard is bored with and loses his job, principally because of a line he read in a novel -- "Il n’ya pas de dignité possible, pas de vie réelle pour un homme qui travaille douze heures par jour sans savoir pourquoi il travaille" [There is no dignity possible, no real life for a man who works 12 hours a day without knowing why he is working] (André Malraux, La Condition humaine). This is something that could only be plausible in France. I was living near Paris when Malraux was panthéonisé in November 1996, that is, when his remains were transferred from their original place of burial to the Panthéon in Paris. I attended the ceremony, at which the President of France himself, Jacques Chirac, presided. There was music, there was a laser light show, and there was a huge crowd to witness it.

Anouk Aimée, Lola, 1961Cassard meets a single mother and her teenage daughter in a book store -- where the mother is returning a copy of Sade's Justine, angry that the salesman recommended such an immoral book and besides, "comment l'appelez-vous, Justine, elle est vraiment trop bête" (what's-her-name, Justine, is such a fool). If it seems improbable that a bookseller would recommend a Sade novel for a teenage girl, remember that this is France. Cassard offers to give the girl his copy of an English-French dictionary that the bookstore would have to special order. The girl and her mother are carbon copies of the pair that Cassard will fall upon in Cherbourg in Les Parapluies de Cherbourg, also offering to help them after a chance meeting in a shop. Geneviève is also like the character of Lola, left behind with a child by another man, which is actually the story that Cassard recounts to Geneviève -- in song, of course.

The movie is a charming story, stretched for believability only in the final few minutes as Demy hastily ties off the various plot strands. Along the way, in addition to the scenes described above, we encounter the full complement of whimsical Demy characters, especially in the local bar that Cassard frequents, which must have been part of the inspiration for the café in Jeunet's Le fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain, a movie that shares the nostalgic, slightly nutty Frenchness that I love in Demy's movies.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Anouk Aimée: Oh-la-la oh-la-la-la-la-la-la.