Comedy of Innocence, Grace and Charm without Pretentiousness of Clichés and Entertainment Effects of Mass-cultural Movies

Dream is a ready made (by our imagination) life as a present to a child wrapped in a shiny paper with ribbons and bows while real life is naked and exposed to all kinds of events – storms, cold, heat and hate from inside and outside.

Three Lolas* – by Joseph von Sternberg’s film’s “The Blue Angel” (1930), Jacques Demy’s “Lola” (1961) and R.W. Fassbinder’s “Lola” (1981)


La chanson de Lola

Jacques Demy on the set of his first feature – “Lola”

Lola’s style of perceiving the world

Lola’s singing/dancing number at the cabaret is a depiction of her self-image – the result of her strenuous contemplations about herself. This young woman, who is a single mother, is a spontaneous and unaware feminist pursuing her particular ideal of womanhood of sublimated attractiveness without pretentiousness, an attractiveness not necessarily for men, but for the sake of herself, in principle.

How to be a woman and a human being in the world is Lola’s (Anouk Aimee) permanent focus. Result of her self-creation is her dancing and singing art – sketch of her feminine identity. Cabaret for her is not just a place for making money, but the space where Lola defines, asserts and shows her position in the world.

The director shows Lola performing at the cabaret only during her rehearsal, probably, to emphasize the introspective, self-cultivating role of her art in her life

From the first glance, Lola’s stage performance is representation of herself to the audience of men, but that’s just surface. In her acting she asserts herself in front of the viewers in general – in front of the witnesses of her existence, in front of the world. In this still we see her representing herself in the gentlemen’s high hat in order to, it seems, underline her difference from men and to assert herself as a woman (in a sense of being a non-male).

Lola and her dream of a sublime and genuine love

The father of Lola’s son suddenly, after many years of being in US, reappeared in France with grand success in his pockets (he became rich just for one purpose – to impress her and their son). His concept of love is similar with Lola’s – it is a dream as a present to human beings from life.

Lola and the young American sailor whom she befriended because by his appearance he reminded her Michel, the father of her child – obviously, very “romantic” motivation on Lola’s part, for whom amorous reward is a culmination of life, like for many recruits – medals are a culmination of war.

The American sailor, Frankie is as innocent as Lola, and as gentle. More benevolent historical periods (in this case – France after WWII) can encourage people’s humanity.

Drink for a friend makes it gentler to slide from bonds of souls into blends of flesh. We learn from Demy’s film that chastity doesn’t necessarily contradict eroticism, and soul – flesh. Ties of common humanity are, sometimes, combinable with that of souls and bodies, like innocence can be compatible with sexuality. Eros can be a part of amity and even accentuate the specter of the soul.

Suddenly incarnated in France, after eight years of absence Michel, the father of Lola’s child, is confessing to her about his love and his success – he wanted to deserve her love. For both of them love is a reward for dreaming about love, while life is just an existential settlement. People who hunt after their dreams perceive love as a dream realized – as a present from destiny, not as a part of life.

Lola and Roland

Roland (Mark Michel) and Lola (Anouk Aimee) by chance bumped into one another on the street, after years of mutual forgetfulness (they had a brief blind affair as teenagers).

Lola’s relations with Roland is something completely different than her relations with Michel (a white knight on a white horse-his big white American car) who has just returned to Paris from US. Roland and Lola’s souls are autonomous inside their relationship – they are not transforming one another into presents for each other (don’t play with one another as with fascinating toys). They feel the existential heaviness of each other, and their psychological touches of one another are not always easy for both of them to sustain.

Between Lola and Roland everything is serious, even playfulness, even humor. They feel responsible for each their word or gesture when they are together. With each other the both feel themselves as too much of adults.

Again and again Lola and Roland are trying, as if, to persuade each other in this or that. May be, they both just can’t yet accept the adultness of their relationship. May be, this adultness is too burdensome for them both?

In this shot Lola has disappeared by the disappearance of her face

Both, Lola and Roland, as if, coming closer and retreat and try to justify themselves. Melodies of love become silent in their talks and gazes.

Love turns to both halves of the couple only when it has ripen, not any sooner (when it‘s challengingly sour) and not later (when it smoothly bitter). Love as a dream is easier – it monitors its own time, while love as a part of life can be as demanding as life.

Future Lola

For Cecile love is a dream, and in this very moment dream is incarnating itself into amusement park, where Cecile by chance met Frankie for couple of hours before his departure to Chicago. Cecile and Frankie use one attraction after another. Demy represents their togetherness in amusement park as a gift, as a realization of child’s dream.

Demy loves human childhood and thinks that both – the society and the adults, should nurture in children the ability to live through dreams, because only through satisfying them – through satisfied dreams, it is possible to come to adulthood – to love as existential seriousness.

Cecile and Frankie soon will separate and, may be, never see each other again. But the memory of this several hours with an American sailor will stay in Cecile’s memory like a precious present from life. She is having it, she got it, she had it, she will have it forever, and for this reason one day she will be able to go through love’s tormenting demands and rewards.


Demy’s film as object of perception and understanding looks easy, but it’s far from trying to entertain us or influence our reactions by deploying pointed and emotionally seductive stimuluses. “Lola” includes complicated characters with a rather contradictory motivations and it’s full of stylistic nuances serving as metaphors characterizing what’s going on in the souls of the main personages. Take, for example, Lola’s cabaret dance, sensual and sexy, but, as if, a little isolating her from the public’s attention because of her mental self-occupation, or take the “lyrics” of her song, or her seeming inability to make a decision about her preference between the men she is emotionally connected with. In spite of her work at the cabaret, her love life and her everyday life are enigmatic for viewers. Is she dancing just for money? Is she a harlot? Does she have a French equivalent of the American dream (today, almost a universal phenomenon)? She seems not interested in money or career or social success. In spite of her orientation on marriage, it cannot be said that she “wants” to marry or that she is dependent on men. She, obviously, doesn’t need marriage to respect herself. Rather, she is somehow almost free from or, may be, for love, even though her dreams moves around the question of a personal love and serious amorous relationship. We don’t see her appealing to men or flirting with any of them. Her soul is assertively autonomous and, as if, not limited by her amorous dream about exceptional relationship.

Lola is emotionally very sensitive and “too much” for a chanteuse of a small cabaret, and the split between the refinement of her responsiveness and the relative simplicity of her amorous dream is impressive and puzzling. It is, as if the childish structure of her concept of love was almost exclusively based on her love dream, which is oriented on and expects realization of love in a form of a generous gift from the destiny, like a child waits for the Christmas tree with a multicolored sky of ornaments.

It is curious that if “Lola” from the first glance looks like an entertaining movie, while it doesn’t entertain the viewers at all, something similar “inconsistency” is traceable in the character of the heroine. On the surface level she follows the obvious – simplistic idea of love (as based on amorous dream and not on the perception of love as a part of life), still her behavior with Roland shows again and again her alternative proclivity – feeling of love as inseparable from the responsibility of choice and decision, demanding distance of autonomy from (symbiotic) amorous object despotically dictating us its irresistibility. In a way, it may be that Lola refuses Roland to protect him from her own immaturity. But although Lola isn’t able yet to accept love as an existential phenomenon (and poor Roland, the existential hero and not imaginary phantom, like her White Knight hero – Michel, will wander until Demy’s “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” [1964]), may be, she is already closer to overcoming the dreamlife of love.

The stylistic atmosphere of the film is amazingly, celebratively positive even when inevitable sadness is a part of the personages’ life. We see the American Navy sailors entering Parisian cabaret and immediately starting to dance with the “girls”, many of whom they know from their previous visits. The innocence of the dancing couples and sexual overtones of the situation are stylistically delivered as socially unproblematic. The scene is unexpectedly perceived as suggesting that the best thing the military sailors can do is to dance with cabaret girls! The film reconciles what is habitually perceived as irreconcilable. Pureness of intentions is embraced with eroticism and this embrace is perceived as chaste – the magic of an indirect (stylistic) directorial suggestion. Demy welcomes not only the childhood personified by the girl Cecile, but the childishness of the adults (personified by Lola and Michel’s picture of love). He differentiates immature and mature love, but he doesn’t devaluate Lola’s immaturity – the director in “Lola” (stylistically) welcomes life and believes that immaturity will find its way to maturity, if not to traumatize still immature souls with violent refutation and mocking which create a resistance to development.

Jacques Demy’s feature is a film about psychological development, but without reproaching, scolding and condemning underdeveloped condition. His humanity teaches us to promote maturity in a mature way tolerant of immaturity. Unexpectedly, amorous immaturity and maturity find themselves as belonging to different phases of the same human life which is depicted as sublime through the joyfully gentle style of Demy’s film.

* Lola-the basic (in Joseph von Sternberg’s film which emphasizes the irreducible gap of antagonism in Weimar Germany between the upper-middle class mentality with authoritarian roots and the masses of lumpen proletarians and petti-bourgeois whose morbid vitality to survive by any price is impregnated with fascist hopes).

Lola-the awakening to the very dignity of emotional sophistication (in Jacques Demy’s film joyfully and playfully emphasizing the benevolent condition of psychological flowering in the post-WWII in France).

Lola-personifying the tragic maturity of neo-democratic/post-democratic cultural structuration in Germany at the end of the 20th century (in Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s elegantly crystallized cinematic elaboration).

Posted on Jan, 3 2017 – “Lola” by Jacques Demy (1961) by Acting-Out Politics