One of France’s most prolific and successful filmmakers, Patrice Leconte follows his romantic historical drama The Widow of Saint-Pierre with a contemporary love story about two lost souls whose paths cross at a fairground. Felix (Philippe Torreton), who runs a bumper-car ride, is captivated by the sight of a downcast young woman listlessly riding one of his cars. He soon hires Lola (Charlotte Gainsbourg) as an assistant, and the two strike up a tentative relationship. As her name might suggest, Lola turns out to be a woman of mystery. Although claiming to be simply visiting her sick mother, it seems that she is being pursued by a man from her past. Even after consummating their love (following a sadly beautiful sequence in which the pair dance alone on a deserted fairground rink), Felix discovers that he is a long way from understanding the truth about his partner’s background.
Felix and Lola provides some intriguing variations on the themes of Leconte’s earlier film The Girl on the Bridge, in which two near-suicidal outsiders embarked on a dangerous journey that proved to be an elaborate form of sublimation for their true passions. The new film is more grounded in everyday reality, but fantasy is never far from the stylised surfaces of Leconte’s films. Here, the mundane and the exotic are combined in the fairground setting, while the director’s imaginative use of sounds and images is clearly designed to capture the protagonists’ highly subjective mind-sets. This is another tale of amour fou, directed with Leconte’s characteristic technical skill and sympathetic appreciation of his protagonists’ obsessions. Torreton (who played the harassed teacher in Bertrand Tavernier’s It All Starts Today) and Gainsbourg (best known for her work with Claude Miller) are both excellent in uncharacteristic roles.France, 2001. English subtitles. Colour. Panavision anamorphic. Dolby digital stereo. 90 min.