“Lola” by Jacques Demy is a comedy of not laughter or mockery (it is very pleasant for the viewers to laugh at somebody or something – it makes them feel superior and great, and that is good for the success of movies and profitable for filmmakers). “Lola” is a comedy of compassionate smile addressed to life and love. It’s the first and already original and refreshingly bold feature of Demy and it’s full of the director’s love for life, for childhood and childishness of the grownups, and for maturity in love and way of life.

Besides being stylistically very articulate (communicating with the viewers not so much through the plot, events and actions, but through the emotional atmosphere and rhythm), the film is also very curious as a sociological research. It depicts a way of life which for us in the 21st century seems unbelievable – nobody in the world of the film, it seems, is worried about “survival”, as we under austerity today are occupied with money, jobs, careers, social success and retirement. Everybody looks satisfied with what they get, and happy to be occupied with something else than dreams and plans about enriching themselves and moving up in the social hierarchy. Even Michel, the father of Lola’s child who left France years ago and at the beginning of the film has just returned – the white knight on white horse (his American car), became rich only for the sake of his relations with Lola (Anouk Aimee). He returned to confess to her about his love, and he is not burdening himself with the matters of business realization/extension of his American success in France. And even Roland, the other relationship of Lola, although he is lost his job because of not paying attention to his working obligations – is not producing visible signs of worry – he is occupied with his amorous problems with Lola. Watching this film you start to feel the heaviness of the mutation in the way of life between the 60s, when people were more relaxed and happy, and today’s US and Europe (is it politics of globalism what created this mutation?)

Another impressive achievement of the film is its depiction of two kinds of love – immature in its naïve and childish perception of love between a man and a woman as a gift from life, and the mature kind, when love is felt as a part of life and shares life’s ordeals and problems. The first type is personified in relations between Lola and Michel (a rich man returned to Lola and their son from US), and the second – in relations between her and Roland (a kind of wavering intellectual). Of course, Demy doesn’t see any “antagonism” between these two types of love, but rather treats them as two phases of general human ability to love. The film suggests the pedagogy of tolerance towards immature love and pedagogy of positive (non-authoritarian) encouragement towards the mature one.

Unfortunately, Demy didn’t reach his 60th birthday, and in him serious cinema lost one of its innovative and sensitive masters.

Demy’s films with their humane and gracious emotional emanation should be insistently and passionately recommended to viewers especially in the age of technological impersonalization of human and cinema’s soul and high-tech fights, killings and wars on the screen and in real life.

Parisian cabaret girls dance with American navy sailors

American navy sailors enter the Parisian cabaret and dance with the girls whom they remember from their previous visits. The stylistic suggestion here (the time is post-WWII recovery period in France, when people wanted to live and when this desire was still not poisoned by money/profit obsession) is that the best thing the military sailors can do is dance with cabaret girls – celebrate being healthy and alive.

Lola’s charm is based, it seems, on the contrast between her spontaneous emotional eroticism and her not trivial (intelligent) appearance. She is, as if, “too above” to be perceived as pretty. But it looks that it feels very-very worthy to get her positive attention.

What is Lola (Anouk Aimee) doing in this very moment? She is dreaming about the present from her destiny – unconditional mutual love wrapped in metaphysical guarantee.

What do we see here? A girl of adolescent age and sailor are walking along the empty narrow street without pedestrians to some secret place in order to do, god knows what (where are those endless American and European detectives?) Oh, no, all of this so far from what Demy’s film is about. It is Cecile (thirteen-year-old) by chance met an American navy sailor and spent with him short time at the amusement park, before he left France for Chicago. They never will meet again, but this brief time will be left in Cecile’s memory forever. The ability for love starts to develop much before love. And, according to Demy’s film, it is necessary to accept (not repress) immature forms of love while educationally encouraging the mature ones.

The moments of feeling confused and lost are, sometimes, probably inevitable on the road to adulthood.

Jacques Demy (1931 – 1990)

Posted on Dec, 19 2016 –   Jacques Demy’s “Lola” (1961) – Pockets of Childishness in Adults and the Ordeal of Psychological Adulthood by Acting-Out Politics