Sunday, June 04, 2006

Demy's Lola Entrances at the Castro

A highlight during a recent trip to San Francisco was seeing a Jacques Demy double feature at the beautiful Castro Theater. Although the second feature, 1969's Model Shop, left at least one viewer underwhelmed, I joined in the hearty applause which greeted the end titles of Demy's wonderful debut as writer/director, the 1961 classic Lola.

The film cleverly intertwines the prospects of several characters in telling a love story centered around the title character, three men, a young girl, and the girl's mother. As people, places, and events from Lola's present and past life begin to merge, the seemingly wayward plot becomes an enriched, unified whole, building to a bittersweet-yet-romantic final fadeout.

Outside of Demy's remarkable contributions, the film's merits include Michel Legrand's score (featuring variations on several classical pieces), Raoul Coutard's rich b&w cinematography, and a fine cast featuring Marc Michel, Annie Duperoux, and Corinne Marchand. The film's greatest asset, however, lies in the appearance of Anouk Aimee as "Lola." Although Aimee was a staple of such 1960's milestones as La Dolce Vita, 8 1/2, and A Man and a Woman (for which she won a Best Actress Oscar nomination), she possibly never was more lovely, vibrant, and touching than in Demy's film, wherein performer and role obtain a harmony that is beautiful to watch and hard to forget. It took me twenty-five years of being a huge movie buff to finally give Lola a look; don't be as foolish as I was and let decades pass without viewing this elegant, original work.

Next up is a trip to Los Angeles, in an attempt to obtain a ticket to a special showing of William Wyler's The Heiress, featuring an appearance by the great Olivia de Havilland. The event is sold out, but I'm hoping I can get a seat via the "Standby" counter. This 1949 masterwork marks a perfect fusion of cast, script, direction, and score (by Aaron Copeland)- it's one of the two or three greatest dramas I've ever seen onscreen, and a chance of attending this screening is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity I can't overlook. I haven't been to L.A. in many years (I live approximately 700 miles north of the city), but I've booked the plane, hotel, and car for the trip, and hope to be front-and-center (or at least in the theater) for this very special occasion, which occurs in two weeks. Meanwhile, during my free time I'm working my way through the terrific new Tennesse Williams DVD box set.


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