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Lola – The Criterion Collection #714 (as part of “The Essential Jacques Demy” Blu-ray + DVD Box Set) (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

August 5, 2014 by  



jacquesdemy

“Lola” is a Jacques Demy film that many people may not be familiar with.  It may not be a well-known Demy musical, nor does it sport the vibrant colors of Demy’s musicals… But by no means is “Lola” a  film that is lesser than other known Demy films.  In fact, it’s perhaps one of the most underappreciated films in his oeuvre, not due to content but because the film was hard to come by until now.  And I can only hope that people will enjoy “Lola” thanks to the painstaking restoration work in constructing this film.  A wonderful film that no doubts deserves to be included in “The Essential Jacques Demy” Blu-ray + DVD Box Set and is highly recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2014 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Lola – The Criterion Collection #714 (as part of “The Essential Jacques Demy” Blu-ray + DVD Box Set)

YEAR OF FILM: 1961

DURATION: 88 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 2:35:1 aspect ratio, Black and White, Monaural French with English Subtitles

COMPANY: THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: July 22, 2014

Written and Directed by Jacques Demy

Produced by Georges de Beauregard, Carlo Ponti

Music by Michel Legrand

Cinematography by Raoul Coutard

Edited by Anne-Marie Cotret

Production Design by Bernard Evein

Costume Design by Bernard Evein

Starring:

Anouk Aimee as Lola/Cecile

Marc Michel as Roland Cassard

Jacques Harden as Michel

Alan Scott as Frankie

Elina Labourdette as Madame Desonyers

Margo Lion as Jeanne, Michel’s Mother

Annie Duperoux as Cecile Desonyers

Catherine Lutz as Clair, the bar owner

Corinne Marchand as Daisy

Yvette Anziani as Madame Frederique

Dorothee Blanck as Dolly

Isabelle Lunghini as Nelly

Annick Noel as Ellen

Jacques Demy’s crystalline debut gave birth to the fictional universe in which so many of his characters would live, play, and love. It’s among his most profoundly felt films, a tale of crisscrossing lives in Nantes (Demy’s hometown) that floats on waves of longing and desire. Heading the film’s ensemble is the enchanting Anouk Aimée as the title character, a cabaret chanteuse who’s awaiting the return of a long-lost lover and unwilling to entertain the adoration of another love-struck soul, the wanderer Roland (Marc Michel). Humane, wistful, and witty, Lola is a testament to the resilience of the heartbroken.

lola

While there are notable names from the French New Wave, may it be Jean-Luc Godard, Alan Resnais, Francois Truffaut, Eric Rohmer, Claude Chabrol, to name a few.  Filmmaker Jacques Demy has established himself differently from the other filmmakers by creating films that are musicals, inspired by fairytales or the golden age of Hollywood.

Married to another filmmaker from the French New Wave, Agnes Varda, both have established their careers in cinema and for Demy, best known for his musicals such as “Les Parapluies de Cherbourg (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg)”, “Les Demoiselles de Rochefort (The Young Girls of Rochefort), “Peau d Ane (Donkey Skin)”, to name a few.

But for every filmmaker, there is a beginning and for Jacques Demy, his beginning in cinema was his first feature film titled “Lola”.  One of the films to be included in “The Essential Jacques Demy” on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of the Criterion Collection.

The set will include “Lola” (1961), “Bay of Angels” (1963), “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” (1964), “The Young Girls of Rochefort” (1967), “Donkey Skin” (1970) and “Une Chambre En Ville” (1982).

“Lola” stars Anouk Aimee (“8 1/2”, “La Dolce Vita”, “A Man and a Woman”), Marc Michel (“Le Trou”, “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg”), Jacques Harden (“Thierry la Fronde”, “Gervaise”) and many more!

“Lola” is a film which Jacques Demy has described as a “musical without music”.  With the names of the film inspired by Josef von Sternberg’s 1930 film “Der blaue Engel (The Blue Angel)”, “Lola” was well-received by critics but yet a film that has been forgotten due to the film being unavailable.

And it has been a mission for Agnes Varda to pursue the restoration and re-release of her husband’s work and sure enough, “Lola” was restored by Technicolor and this restored version will be featured on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of the Criterion Collection.

“Lola” is a film that revolves on several characters living in the coastal city of Nantes, France.

Roland Cassard (portrayed by Marc Michel) is a young man who tries to make money working odd jobs and has no set goals of what he wants to do with his life.

Meanwhile, Cecile (portrayed by Anouk Aimee) is a single mother who tries to make her living as a woman named “Lola”, singing/dancing at the burlesque and also a life of the prostitute and sleeping with an American sailor named Frankie (portrayed by Alan Scott).

For Cecile, she loves only one man and that is Michel (portrayed by Jacques Harden), who has vanished and has never visited her or her young son.

One day, as Roland is walking, he accidentally bumps into Cecile and we learn that the two were very close when they were teenagers and for Roland, seeing Cecile once again has rekindled his love for her.  But will he ever reach Cecile’s heart and have her feel the same way towards him?

VIDEO:

“Lola” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:35:1 aspect ratio) and was filmmaker Agnes Varda’s personal mission to have her husband’s debut film restored and so today and tomorrow’s cinema fans to enjoy the film.

And no doubt the journey was difficult as Technicolor had to work with any surviving elements they were able to find and this case, the fortune of finding out that the BBC had a surviving print.  But still, the print was not perfect and so the journey to reconstruct the film was a painstaking effort (as shown in the restoration special feature).

Watching “Lola” for the very first time, I was quite impressed by the restoration as the film was well-contrast with grays and whites.  Black levels were nice and deep but the clarity was also evident in the HD version (compared with the included DVD release).   The cinematography was also impressive thanks to legendary cinematographer Raoul Coutard’s work on the film and capturing the city of Nantes, the characters and their environment.

According to the Criterion Collection, “Approved by Mathieu Demy, this new digital transfer was created in 2K resolution on a Scanity film scanner from two 35mm internegatives at Technicolor Los Angeles, where the film was also restored; the original negative was lost in a fire, and these internegatives are the only remaining preprint elements in existence. This 2012 restoration was undertaken by Cine-Tamaris, the Technicolor Foundation for Cinema Heritage, and the Groupama Gen Foundation for Cinema.”

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for audio, “Lola” is presented in French Monaural LPCM 1.0 with English subtitles. Dialogue is clear and understandable. While the orchestral baroque music sounds great and didn’t notice any crackling or hiss during my viewing of the film.

According to the Criterion Collection, “the original monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from the optical track of a low-contrast print.”

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Lola – The Criterion Collection #714” comes with the following special features:

  • Anouk Aimee – (3:27) Anouk Aimee talks to Agnes Varda about playing the character of Lola.
  • Lola’s Song – (3:24) A featurette about Anouk Aimee singing Lola’s song.
  • Restoration Demonstration – (10:20) Agnes Varda’s determination to restore “Lola” and Technicolor’s mission to restore the film.
  • Les Horizon Morts – (8:22) A 1951 short starring Jacques Demy featuring a man suffering a broken heart.
  • Le Sabotier du val du loire – (23:32) A 1956 short about the week in the life of a clog maker in the Loire Valley.
  • Ars – (16:43) A 1959 short about Jean-Marie Baptiste Vianney, a pastor from the village of Ars.
  • La Luxure – (14:51) A 1962 short created for the feature “The Seven Deadly Sins” about Demy’s memories of growing up in Nantes.
  • Trailer – (1:49) The theatrical trailer for “Lola”.

For anyone who has followed Jacques Demy’s oeuvre, let alone the films included in the Criterion Collection’s “The Essential Jacques Demy”, will see how “Lola” is possibly one of his greatest works that people had forgotten about.

Because Jacques Demy has been identified for his work in the French New Wave and how his musical work would be known for its music and vibrant colors, “Lola” was the film that wasn’t a film that people would identify with Demy.

A film about several individuals with a storyline tied together, “Lola” is a film that represents Demy’s childhood in Nantes, France.  The bustling city that would eventually become France’s sixth largest city, was a much different city back then.

At the time the film was shot, Nantes was shown as a city yet in the rebuilding phase after World War II.

But unlike a film of Italian Neorealism, “Lola” is not about the seedy areas of France.  What we see are normal working people or people doing all they can to survive and raise a family.

With our main characters, Roland Cassard (portrayed by Jacques Demy) is a young man trying to find himself.  Wanting to find work, wanting to be a better man and wanting one woman in his life…Cecile/Lola (portrayed by Anouk Aimee).

While the character of Roland Cassard is your “everyman” or at least a man that wants to make something of himself, what is most interesting is where we would find the character of Roland Cassard years later, as the character once again appears in a Jacques Demy film, the 1964 French musical, “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg”.   Having watched the musical first and somewhat despising the character of Cassard for interfering with young love, after watching “Lola”, I felt that those feelings I had towards Cassard has since dissipated.

I learned of how Cassard is literally a representation of the many guys who dream of dating a beautiful girlfriend at a younger age and wonder if that same man fared much better many years later.

And while Cassard represents the “everyman”, the character of Cecile/Lola, is a representation of the woman you really like but has no interest in being with you.  The ultimate beauty that you peel away many layers and realize that she was unattainable.

In the film, Cecile or Lola, as the prostitute that an American sailor named Frankie (portrayed by Alan Scott) has had sex with but knows he will get nothing from their relationship.  As Cecile, she is the teenage girl that Roland has always loved, but as adults, she doesn’t feel the same way because her heart belongs to one man, Michel.  A man who has disappeared and has not seen his wife or son, but yet Cecile holds out hope that she will be reunited with him someday.

The film tries to have a little breather and fun with the addition of the Desonyers, a family who looks wealthy and consists of a mother (portrayed by Elina Labourdette) and her young teen daughter Cecile (portrayed by Annie Duperoux).  For both Frankie and even Roland, there is something about this young teen that reminds them of Cecile/Lola.  Perhaps her young act of defiance to her mother despite her wise but yet spunky behavior or the fact that this well-mannered girl may not be what she seems.

The film also features actress Corinne Marchand, best known for her role on Agnes Vardas “Cleo from 5 to 7” as Daisy, one of Lola’s co-workers.

But “Lola” is a film is more than just its characters, story and location shots.  The film features the gorgeous cinematography by Raoul Coutard (“Jules et Jim”, “Breathless”, “Band of Outsiders”, “Pierrot le Fou”, “Z”) and last, the restoration and remastering of “Lola” is fantastic.  Agnes Varda and crew should be commended for seeking out surviving elements of this film and restoring it for a new generation of cineastes who have discovered Jacques Demy’s work.

As for the Blu-ray release, the picture quality is the best this film has ever looked.  Grays and whites are well-contrast, black levels are nice and deep and the clarity of this film is fantastic.  Lossless audio is clear without any crackling or hiss and there are a good number of special features included.

Overall, “Lola” is a Jacques Demy film that many people may not be familiar with.  It may not be a well-known Demy musical, nor does it sport the vibrant colors of Demy’s musicals… But by no means is “Lola” a  film that is lesser than other known Demy films.  In fact, it’s perhaps one of the most underappreciated films in his oeuvre, not due to content but because the film was hard to come by until now.  And I can only hope that people will enjoy “Lola” thanks to the painstaking restoration work in constructing this film.  A wonderful film that no doubts deserves to be included in “The Essential Jacques Demy” Blu-ray + DVD Box Set and is highly recommended!

 






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