Director: Jacques Demy

The very welcome release of a beautifully restored version of The Umbrellas of Cherbourg provides an opportunity to show Jacques Demy’s extraordinary first feature. Made in 1960 during the early flourishes of the French New Wave, Lola combines some of the self-concious, quasi-modernist quirks common to French films of the time (an offhand approach to narrative, a free-flowing visual style, references to Hollywood and other films) with a love story and setting that create an idiosyncratic, artificial world unique to Demy. Like most of the director’s films, Lola is a tender, capricious story of love found, love lost and love regained through faith. At the centre of this romantic roundelay is Anouk Aimee’s eponymous cabaret artist, who tries to choose between three men, two of them sailors. There are echoes of Hollywood musicals, but perhaps more significant is the dedication to Max Ophuls and the reference to his great film Lola Montes. With its circular story structure and continuously mobile camerawork (Raoul Coutard’s wide-screen cinematography is superb), Demy’s film shares with Ophuls’s masterpiece a strong sense of the transitory nature of happiness in love and the mysterious roles played by chance and fate. Too often overshadowed by the more famous New Wave films, Demy’s Lola has stood the test of time better than most of its contemporaries and is ripe for rediscovery.

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