Wednesday, July 24, 2013


Film: Lola
Format: Video from The Magic Flashdrive on laptop.

Lola is one of those films that I’ve seen and immediately wonder why I bothered. I don’t mean that this is a bad film, because it’s not. I just question the reason it was a film that made my life incomplete without seeing. Lola is a pleasant enough film and it presages Demy’s later musicals without question, but I simply can’t see it as something essential to my well being and knowledge as a film viewer.

Interestingly, Lola is named after a character who is actually named Cecile and is merely one of the foci of the film. She’s central to the story of a couple of our other characters and has her story as well. None of the stories in the film are deep, each one is mildly interesting, but none of them have a significant impact. Even the strange little crime angle doesn’t add much in the way of tension, interest, or anything else.

Roland Cassard (Marc Michel) is the sort of romantic hero we’ve come to expect in French New Wave films. He’s moderately intelligent, seems well read, and has absolutely no direction in his life. In the first few minutes of the film, we see him fired from his job for being habitually late—and he’s late in general because he doesn’t care enough to show up on time. His job is meaningless to him because his life is meaningless.

Almost at random, he literally bumps into Cecile (Anouk Aimee), a woman he knew years before. Cecile now goes by the name Lola, her stage name stolen liberally from the Marlene Dietrich character in Der Blaue Engel. She has a young son named Yvon. She works in a cabaret frequented by American sailors. In particular, her club is frequented by Frankie (Alan Scott), who is infatuated with her and frequently brings gifts for her son. Frankie believes himself to be in love with Lola. For her part, Frankie reminds her of her one true love, Yvon’s father, who abandoned her when she learned she was pregnant.

All of this would be a lovely little love triangle were it not for the additional complications. By accident, Roland meets Madame Desnoyers (Elina Labourdette) and her daughter Cecile (Annie Duperoux) and offers Cecile an English dictionary. It’s evident soon after that Madame Desnoyers has a bit of a crush on Roland. Frankie gets into the act by befriending Cecile as well, and there’s a definite creepy pedophile vibe going on, although it’s thankfully never acted on.

And so all of these lives spiral around each other, everyone making plans and expressing desires and none of them doing much about them. And suddenly everyone is travelling somewhere. Roland takes a shady job that certainly has criminal elements to it, the job requiring him to travel to Amsterdam and Johannesburg. Frankie’s ship is sailing and he is leaving the Navy to return to Chicago. Cecile wants to run away because her friends are. Lola takes a job dancing in Marseilles. So all these worlds come together at this moment in time and then all fly apart by the end of the film.

I could actually forgive all of this and even be entertained by it throughout. I’ve enjoyed other movies just as much that have had much more staggering coincidences than the ones presented here and I’m okay with it. The people here are pleasant enough if unfocused and don’t have a lot going for them in general. What I can’t forgive is the syrupy ending that suddenly pops up in the last couple of minutes. It’s best handled as a spoiler.

*** GOING ON A SPOILER TRIP *** One of the women that Roland frequently talks to goes on and on about her son, Michel. It’s not a coincidence that Lola/Cecile’s lost lover and the father of Yvon is also named Michel. Knowing that, would it be a shock that these two Michels are actually the same Michel? I can even accept that level of coincidence. But having Michel show up at the tail end of the film with no introduction other than these legends about him and suddenly reappear in Lola’s life as if the previous seven years didn’t happen?

Frankly, it feels like a cheat.


Ultimately, Lola is pleasant enough and entertaining enough, but it feels very much like the end is cobbled on. It reaches an ending, obviously, but it doesn’t earn the ending we get. That’s disappointing, because there’s a better ending that’s right there—and it’s an ending that Demy even used in Les Parapluies de Cherbourg.

Why to watch Lola: It’s as close as you can get to a musical without it being a musical.
Why not to watch: There are some creepy pedophilia moments in it.


  1. I liked this movie. I didn't have the problem with the "Michel situation" because I was completely expecting the ending we got. Frankly, if it had had a depressing ending like Umbrellas of Cherbourg I probably would have hated it, much like I hated Umbrellas. I agree this is not a life changing movie, but it was a fun one for me.

    I didn't read anything creepy into the interactions with the daughter. This movie was made in far simpler times when it wouldn't have even occurred to people to question it.

    I don't judge older films by "modern sensibilities". For me it's all about when a movie was made. If a movie was released today that did the same thing I probably would be questioning it because the filmmakers WOULD be aware of how those scenes would be perceived by the audience, which means they would have shown them that way for a reason. A filmmaker in 1960 would have had no clue how a completely innocent scene to the audiences of that time would be perceived by people watching it more than 50 years later.

    Also, my memory is that the daughter was well past puberty (something like 14 or 15) so it wouldn't have been pedophilia even if something had happened. It may or may not have still been illegal depending on what France's laws were at the time.

    I realize we've discussed the definition before, with you saying it's the common term even if it is completely inaccurate. It's just one of my pushbutton words. People also commonly say "astrology" when they mean "astronomy" and it bugs me just as much, if not more. When I mention "astronomy not astrology" they have similar responses - that it's commonly used and that it's sort of the same thing.

    (30 minutes later) Guess what? I googled "France age of consent" and there's actually a wikipedia page for every country's and state's laws by continent. France is 15 for consent. Germany is 14 and Spain is 13, by the way. Vatican City is 12. Even the U.K. is 16, which I've also just found out is the most common age level here in the U.S. - 30 of the 50 states. Who knew? Of all 30+ countries in Europe only Turkey is 18. Anyway, long story short, don't let your daughter go to France. :-)

  2. Lola is the prequel to Les Parapluies de Cherbourg, which makes what happens at the end of that film more palatable. Why? Because the way Anouk Aimee's "Lola" treats Marc Michel's Roland pisses me off. Chip, up there, makes me sad that he hated my beloved Les Parapluies de Cherbourg. :(

  3. I get your intent on the definition of pedophilia, but I'm not sure the astronomy/astrology comparison is a good one. Astronomy is a science, after all, and astrology is pseudo-scientific claptrap. Pedophilia and a predilection for young post-pubescent girls are really similar in a lot of obvious ways. I originally wanted to use the term pederasty, but that's specifically an attraction to boys. My guess is that however sexual perversions--particularly illegal ones--are classified, that pedophilia and an attraction to young teens would be subsets of the same thing. The same is absolutely not true of astronomy and astrology.

    I watch films with the intent of viewing both within the context of their era and the context of the modern era--a part of what I try to do is translate how well a film works for a modern viewer. I'm also not so sure that the 1960s or even the 1950s were the innocent times you may think they were. In fact, there's a possibility that the subtext may be more important strictly because such things couldn't be openly talked about.

    As for The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, I appreciated the ending--it was happy enough without doing something I'd have considered really ugly.

    1. Actually pedophilia (sexual desire for pre-pubescent children) is as far as you can possibly get from sexual desire for sexually mature people. The first IS a mental disorder of the first kind. The second is normal human interaction built in from millions of years of evolution. It's how the human race continues. Nothing is more natural than that. HOWEVER, as I mentioned every country has laws in place designed to prevent older people from taking too much advantage of younger people - regardless of sexual maturity. Those laws are based on the social mores of the locations they are made in, not anything based on science or studies of psychological disorders.

      I consider pedophilia just about the most heinous thing there is. I can't imagine anything worse, and to be accused of it is usually enough to destroy a person's life, even if absolutely nothing happened. That is why it bothers me so much when I see the word used for things that have nothing to do with it. It's like when homosexuality used to be equated with pedophilia when the two have nothing to do with each other.

      "Pedophilia and a predilection for young post-pubescent girls are really similar"

      Saying that pedophilia and attraction to post-pubescent girls (or boys) are similar is like saying that homosexuality and heterosexuality are similar. The definition of pedophilia is the very opposite of attraction to post-pubescent people.

      Astrology and astronomy are actually closer in that at least both deal with the same thing - the stars. Perhaps a more apt comparison, though, is when people started using the word "rape" to describe situations where they heard conversations of a sexual nature that offended/shocked them. Some people felt violated by even hearing those things spoken about (this comment could easily qualify, actually) and starting claiming that they had been "raped" because of it. Rape is another crime so heinous that it can destroy lives from nothing more than being accused of it, regardless of the guilt or innocence of the accused. Thankfully, that usage of the word mostly died out after a decade or so, but every once in a great while I still see someone use the word rape that way. When I do see it, if there is a way to provide feedback I do, so it's not just you I've been picking on. I pushed back on that for years and years.

      I can certainly appreciate that as the father of a teenage girl you would be horrified if anyone tried to harm her sexually (or otherwise). If that person was over 18 then they should prosecuted to the fullest. But to me there is a MASSIVE difference between someone trying to have sex with a seven year old and someone trying to have sex with a seventeen year old. The former should be thrown into a pit to rot, while the latter didn't even do anything wrong on much of the planet, but might still go to jail for 20 years (and good luck living that long in jail as a known statutory rapist) if he or she was stupid enough to do it in the wrong geography. The former is a criminal over the entire planet, while the latter might also be one depending on location. So, the latter may be able to be accurately labelled a criminal, but only the former is a pedophile.

    2. I agree that there's a difference between a 7 and a 17 year old. There's not a massive difference, though between say a 10-year-old and a very undeveloped 14-year-old. Psychologically speaking, I'm not sure that there's a massive difference in one non-consenting individual over another.

    3. I completely agree on "non-consenting". Regardless of age this should be, and I hope always will be, a crime.

  4. @Kim--we were evidently typing at roughly the same time. Lola the character isn't high on my list either.

    I liked Cherbourg far more than I thought I would. I expected to hate it and found it not only worth watching, but quite good. Moreover, I liked the ending. To have our main characters act otherwise would have seemed needlessly cruel and caused a lot of pain for people who didn't deserve it.

  5. It is interesting how different our impressions were on this movie considering that we were looking at the same issues. For a large part of the movie I found the meandering, almost pointless, style frustrating until I came to terms with that this is not a progressive story, but something else. The dreaming of that elusive thing that will bring meaning to our lives. Sometimes it actually happens and sometimese it does not, but in the meantime it prevents people from noticing and grapping what is right in front of their noses. I quite liked it, even the ending, it actually works for me. The question of course is if, when you actually get what you have been dreaming about, it is what you wanted after all.
    The hints at pedolhilia did make me cringe, but there was a point to it. Cecile is fed a dream that will pursue her for the rest of her life, even if it meant little to Frankie. This is what happened to Lola and even Roland back in their youths.

    1. Well, if we agreed on everything or saw everything the same way, one of us would be unnecessary.

      For what it's worth, I did like this in general. I don't love the ending, but it doesn't kill the entire experience for me.