Crime Of Passion, 1956. 7/10

Stirling Hayden, Barbara Stanwyck, and Raymond Burr star in this noirish drama of a love triangle. Bill (Hayden) and Kathy (Stanwyck) are married, but she gets bored with her apparently contented husband, and has a one-night thing with his boss, Tony (Burr). Which means trouble.

We see that Kathy is that bane of the ’50s woman mindset–she’s independent and ambitious. Nonetheless, this newspaper woman falls in love with the detective (Bill) who solves a big murder case. But hanging out with the other cops’ wives is literally no picnic for Kathy; when’s Bill getting that promotion, anyway? Who does she have to sleep with to make it happen?

With Fay Wray as Burr’s wife, Alice; Virginia Grey and Royal Dano as the Alidos, Sara and Charlie; and Robert Griffen and Dennis Cross as a couple of detectives, James and Jules.

Were in San Francisco, passing newspaper billboards featuring Kathy’s image, obviously to boost readership. Then, into her paper’s office. Her boss wants her to check on an L.A. homicide–it’s concerning a wife (Mary Dana) who killed her husband. Next thing, were in the press room at police H.Q. The L.A. cops, Alidos and Doyle, have the case that’s the hot topic.

Captain Alidos comes in with Bill; they’re so-tight lipped that Alidos’s biggest comment is that Kathy should bag it and keep house. Anyway, thanks to Kathy’s advice column, the elusive Mary surfaces; warranting another, slightly more cordial visit from Alidos and Doyle. She gives the Captain the address she has for the suspect.

But, she sends Alidos on a wild goose chase; she wants Bill to get credit himself, so she saves the straight dope for him. They’re instantly attracted to each other, so after the Dana business is wrapped up, Bill and Kathy go out to dinner. He’s got to catch his plane “I’m glad I met you. I like you.” An airport barroom kiss.

What’s this? She’s taking a new job in New York. Hey, Bill calls…can she stop over in L.A.? He fixes it so she can. He basically sweeps her off the runway, and into city hall for a marriage ceremony. Somewhat incongruously, the Captain and his wife are the best man and maid of honor (or just witnesses). Right away things are a tad underwhelming, as Kathy doesn’t seem very excited with their new place together.

Obviusly, she’s ditched her career for him. Anyway, the cops’ wives are soon hanging out with Kathy; she’s hardly even faking being interested. She doesn’t fit in with them, and can’t cross over to where ‘the guys’ are busy playing cards. Plus, Bill can’t even have lunch with his wife without being pestered by work. The next dinner party, Tony’s name comes up; meanwhile, Kathy melts down from the banality.

That night, she stays up pondering things. “Don’t call me ‘angel’! I loathe it!” She tells Bill, who looks in. “Is this what you have to look forward to? This mediocrity?!” He just want to make her happy. “I just want you to BE somebody.” Isn’t he, though?

Although the limited role for women in this era is certainly a major theme, Kathy’s out-and-out greed is something quite different. That’s not feminism, but insatiability. And, materialism isn’t the bad guy here, it’s the paltry amount of it. The well-constructed and convincing independent woman theme is more or less in the dust bin.

Anyway, she’s up to something, staging an accident. She almost hits Alice Pope, the object being to meet her, as an entre to meeting her husband, the Inspector. Soon she’s getting her nails done with Alice, and hatches a scheme (a party) to schmooze Tony. Ironically, just the sort of gab-fest that she usually can’t stand.

The party comes off; Bill even has the chance to talk up the Commissioner. Tony chats up Kathy. He basically stirs the pot by hinting that her ambition isn’t sufficiently satisfied. Rather oddly, he invites her to his office. They seem to be sizing each other up. She does admit that she’s at loose ends. She takes the big step of letting him know that she’s more or less available to discuss intriguing cases (!).

That night she tells Bill that she wants him to quit; and segue to the less-demanding Beverly Hills police. It doesn’t make sense, as he’d have to start all over again. He agrees, because “The only way to make me unhappy is to stop loving me.” All of a sudden, Tony has taken an interest in his career; so Bill won’t resign, but we know something Bill doesn’t.

Uh, oh, there’s a note questioning her commitment to Bill. She has to explain that it’s probably Sara’s doing, and fingering Tony. Well, Bill’s not a happy camper. At HQ, Charlie gets punched by Bill. Great, now Bill’s in the hot seat, with Pope presiding. Actually, Jules and James more or less cover for Doyle. In this inquiry, Pope sounds very much like Burr’s later incarnation as Perry Mason.

The upshot of all this is Alicia’s is transferred, and Bill’s temporarily promoted. Next bit is someone calling on Kathy at night–of course it’s Tony. Now it’s his turn to gripe, about Alice. Same story as with Bill and Kathy; Alice is going nuts dealing with being a cop’s wife. “All those [good] years, where did they go?” he laments. Hey here’s an idea: Tony retires, Bill takes his place. A win-win?

They make out. Instead of that sealing the deal, however, Tony and Alice are suddenly reconciled. Kathy can’t have that; she and Tony arrange to meet up. He shows at the restaurant; he feels bad about their recent encounter, and out of loyalty for Bill, not to mention professionalism, the “pillow talk” deal is off. In fact, in a complete reversal, he’s putting Charlie up for the promotion.

She nearly faints in the restaurant. Next morning, she’s a complete jerk with Bill. Later, at the fights, they have to leave; same old ‘duty calls’ thing. A pretty gross shoot-out is recounted at the station. The desk sergeant mumbles about crime and murder. She leaves, but stakes out Tony’s home. “I’ve got to talk to you! It’s important!” She yells at him. Kind of carelessly, he lets her in.

She goes on and on, “I beg of you!” He’s not being magnanimous. So, she plays her last card–a gun. Boom, no more Tony. Driving furiously up in the mountains, she does finally get home. Now what? There’s Bill. She gets in bed just quick enough to fool him. Of course, Tony’s body is discovered. Meaning Bill is notified. Just now she’s the most affectionate that she’s ever been with him.

At HQ, ironically, it’s Bill giving orders about not leaving a stone unturned to catch Tony’s killer. She calls HQ (no answering machines then), as Bill looks at photo of the fatal bullet. He calls her to ask her to stay with Alice; hmm, comfort the widow of the man she’s shot? Well, Bill’s forensic skills are perfect: he IDs the bullet as from the same gun as one taken in the heist discussed earlier–in other words, it was stolen from HQ.

The cops huddle: what could’ve happened to the missing gun? Indirectly, Bill pieces everything together. At home he simply says “what did you do with the gun, Kathy?” She confesses. Well, he brings her in. To that same desk where she stole the gun. That’s it, the end.

Strangely, although the story covers plenty of territory (Bill and Kathy’s entire relationship), it goes sort of slow, especially in the middle. Had we begin with them as newlyweds, we’d have a lot more room for scenes showing Kathy’s disenchantment with married life, her the effects of her pushiness on Bill, and, especially the fling with Tony.

As it is, the beginning isn’t integrated well into the rest of the movie. It’s as though the career woman role just morphs into the trapped-in-suburban-conformity theme. Obviously the two are related, but the change is so abrupt that it’s almost like two movies lashed together.

Having cut this up that much, there’s plenty to like: the stars each give strong performances, and are very well-suited to their roles. Hayden is uncharacteristically passive, though; he never reacts much to Stanwyck’s demands, except by giving in. In fact, he never figures out what happened between her and Burr’s character. There’s no Bill and Tony face-off, and not much follow-up on Bill’s discovery of the ‘do-tell’ letters.

Tony is the most interesting one here. He’s alternatively menacing, intimidating, creepy, dishonest, and loyal. The strongest scene is his ‘courtroom’ investigation of the Bill/Charlie confrontation, in which Tony shows most of these traits.

Stanwyck has the amorality tinge of some of her other roles. Other than their initial romance, Hayden and Stanwyck spend more time avoiding each other than being cozy.

Crime of Passion takes a weighty premise and a great cast and comes up with a decent drama; it just doesn’t scope out its angles clearly enough to make a stronger impact.

The Raven, 1963. 6.5/10

Roger Corman doesn’t hold back in this snarky psuedo-Poe horror film. Boris Karloff, Vincent Price, and Peter Lorre star as magicians (Doctors Scarabus, Erasmus Craven, and Adolphus Bedlo, respectively). They’ve each got some issue. Craven’s wife, Lenore (Hazel Court) has died…or has she? Bedlo’s been changed into a raven by Scarabus. Lenore (is she ‘lost’ as Poe said?) has been spotted at Scarabus’s castle.

To help sort out the spells are Bedlo’s son, Rexford (Jack Nicholson), and Craven’s daughter, Estelle (Olive Sturgess). Although 1935’s The Raven owes nothing to this interpretation, Karloff was featured in the earlier film as well.

Nice atmospheric introduction: Vincent Price reciting The Raven, with a hallucinogenic lava lamp background. That effect segues into castles, foggy graveyards, and, finally, Craven in his sitting room. He’s drawing a raven into existence, well, a spectral one, just for practice, it seems. Next thing we know, he’s dusting off Lenore’s coffin.

He freaks out as Estelle appears right next to him, with his glass of warm milk (!). Now we hear something knocking, gently rapping at his chamber door, it’s…our raven. “Are you some dark-winged messenger from beyond?” He asks of it. “How the hell should I know?!” Quoth the Raven.

The Raven wants to be changed back to its “rightful form.” Does Craven have jellied spiders and such like? Not at hand (he’s a vegetarian), but maybe in the old laboratory. Lots of cool ingredients (entrails, eyeballs, dead-man’s hair). Well, it’s quickly brewed up, and the Raven partakes of it. Shazam! It’s Bedlo.

Apparently, they’ve met at a “sorcerer’s convention.” Of course, there’s still an issue: Bedlo has a feathery look because Craven’s concoction wasn’t strong enough. They’ve got to scare up some more dead man’s hair. Where? The graveyard? No need, there’s a family crypt handy. Anyway, Craven asks Bedlo how he got turned into a bird–Scarabus won a duel of spells with Bedlo–thus the enchantment.

Another problem: Craven’s dad’s corpse grabs him, moaning “beware…” They get the snippet of hair. Bedlo sees a miniature portrait of Lenore; at first he thinks that Craven’s scared her off or whatnot, because Bedlo’s seen her at Scarabus’s. Ladlo has to journey to that guy’s place, anyway, as the other magician took possession of Ladlo’s magic “equipment.”

Sounds like a road trip. But first, check Lenore’s coffin–a convincingly horrid corpse nesting in there. Perhaps, though, Scarabus has possession of her soul. Craven’s servant, sent out to prepare the coach, is overwhelmed and dazed. He returns with an ax, ready to kill them all (Estelle is up and about too). Just as she’s about to be cut up, Craven is able to zap him. He collapses.

When he comes to, it’s obvious that he has no idea what he just did. A Scarabus victim, no doubt. At this point Rexford makes himself known. So, they all make off in Craven’s coach. It’s clear that Estelle’s mission is to get to know Rexford. For his part, Rexford seems to have fallen under a Scarabus spell; he’s pretty much trying to crash the coach.

They make it to Sacrabus’s castle; it’s an obvious prop, probably a drawing, though well-done. As is usual in these situations, the door opens on its own, and the foursome enters. It’s certainly an ominous place–Scarabus appears “I bid you welcome” as Bela Lugosi did to his visitors in 1931’s Dracula.

He summons Lenore; but it’s not actually his Lenore, says Craven. Nice banter ensues between Bedlo and Scarabus, as the former complains about being turned into a raven. Scarabus: “but sir! You tried to kill me!” Bedlo: “So what?!” The competition between Bedlo and Rexford is great too. Scarabus is certainly playing the gentleman-magician role.

They talk magic. But Bedlo isn’t ready to let byegones be byegones. He gets his case of equipment back, anyway. Bedlo tries a spell or two on Scarabus, to no effect (even Bedlo’s magic wand droops). He does, however, conjure a pretty good storm; but, probably thanks to Scarabus’s intervention, he destroys himself!

Well, the Cravens are spending the night. Big deal, what about the ‘fake’ Lenore? Rexford enlists Estelle’s aid in talking her father into somehow saving his dead dad. Rexford prowls about, trying to get to Craven’s chamber. Hey! Lenore (the ‘real’ one) appears at his window. She’s obviously in cahoots with Scarabus, as his mistress.

Seems weird that she would take up with an old fossil like Scarabus; yes, he’s rich and powerful, but Craven’s no peasant himself, and about half Scarabus’s age. Next surprise is that Rexford is jumped in the dark by…his father. Dad not only didn’t die, he’s not even changed into a bird “what am I? A ghost?” Rexford tells his dad that Scarabus is holding Estelle prisoner.

Meanwhile, Lenore and Scarabus are up to something. Rexford rescues Estelle, while Bedlo distracts Scarabus; we discover that Craven’s magic is Scarabus’s object now. Craven’s awakened by his daughter and Rexford; they’re going to split. Will Scarabus try to turn Bedlo against Craven? Lenore taunts Bedlo, who’s easily preturbed.

Scarabus doesn’t like guests leaving without saying goodbye. He turns Craven into stone, and Bedlo is encased in ropes. Soon, all of the ‘good guys’ are tied up in the dungeon. Lenore is enjoying their discomfort; Craven wonders if she’s under a spell…could be. Bedlo is pitiful–trescherous once again, he’s unceremoniously turned back into a raven.

Estelle is used as bait–either Craven turns over his magic secrets to Scarabus, or his daughter’s burned with irons. Surprisingly, Ledlo/the raven comes to the rescue by pecking away at Rexford’s restraints. Rexford jumps the jailer, which leads to a sort of laser fight between Scarabus and Craven.

Scarabus says they should have a “duel to the death” (I thought that’s what they were doing ). A snake is turned into a scarf into a bat into a fan….eventually, into a cannon. The cannonball is now the focus…but it’s turned into confetti. Now the stone gargoyles come to life, and end up as puppies. And so on.

Scarabus turns into a corpse, and spears Craven. But it’s not the real Craven. Are they going to run out of spells? More laser beam fights. The green (good?) energy prevails. All seems well–but Craven doesn’t buy Lenore’s I-was-under-a-spell excuse, and leaves her as the whole place goes up in flames.

Remarkably, she and Scarabus survive, albeit with little magic left amid the ruins. Back at the Craven’s, there’s time for some Raven quips before we leave these nuts. The end.

It’s amazing how easily the three masters of horror–Price, Lorre, and Karloff–can retune themselves into macabre jokers. Some of the one-liners are great. This works because each interprets their roles differently: Karloff is sort of Jack the Ripper dastardly, Price is smug and sarcastic, Lorre is just hapless. Nicolson, even at this very earlier stage, plays along famously.

The atmosphere and settings (even with the cleverly faked castle) complement each other quite well. There’s that pesky too-clean look, though, even in the dungeon; at least the lab in Craven’s place looks suitibly neglected. Other than the costumes, the 15th century may as well be the 19th; that’s not much of a big deal–there’s no ‘real world’ to get in the way with annoying tell-tale stuff from the wrong era.

The premise is something different, and leaves a lot of possibilities open. It would seem that the primary goal is for Craven to win Lenore back. It is, but, ultimately, he loses interest. That’s a bold switch. I think what it does is shift the focus to the magic itself; what goes on among the three magicians, particularly the climatic battle, pretty much takes on a life of its own.

In a way, the two women are just sort of there, in that incidental way that so many women’s roles were in movies of this sort. Nonetheless, it’s Lenore who gets the ‘good guys’ to invade Scarabus’s castle. And it’s hard to think that Scarabus would be so hostile to Craven if the two guys weren’t in effect fighting over her for almost the entire movie.

The fact that the plot sort of implodes with Craven’s renunciation of Lenore is, in a way, the nuttiest thing that could’ve happened. The entire story is thematically meaningless, because Craven really doesn’t want his wife back. Well, at least he knows that she isn’t dead. But is that better than knowing that she’s unfaithful? Maybe I’m taking The Raven too seriously.

As entertaining as this was, the goofiness made it essentially cartoonish. Despite the legitimate creepiness all around (the coffin inhabitants in Craven’s crypt most notably), it’s clear almost immediately that no one is really going to get killed off. Consider that Bedlo, despite incurring Scarabus’s wrath more than once, is indestructible (if not necessarily human).

I suppose that a slightly more serious tone, along with a palpable sense of danger, would make for a more interesting movie. This is worth seeing for the star power alone–these guys don’t disappoint. But, in this case, the whole doesn’t equal the sum of its parts. 6.5/10

Lola, 1961. 9.5/10

A romantic drama with Anouk Aimee, Marc Michel, and Jaques Hardin. After many years, Roland (Michel) runs into old flame Cecile/Lola (Aimee), a cabaret singer. She’s estranged from Michel (Hardin), the father of her son. Cecile wants Michel back; Roland wants Cecile. Making it more interesting is Madame Desnoyers (Elina Labourdette), who wants Roland, who isn’t interested in her.

Lots of longing and disappointment in store it seems. There’s also Desnoyers’ daughter Cecile (Annie Duperoux), who resembles the adult Cecile; yet another suitor for Lola, Frankie (Alan Scott), Michel’s mom, Jeanne (Margo Lion), and Claire (Catherine Lutz).

We see a guy in a cowboy hat driving a white Cadillac Eldorado up to the beachfront (the film is shot in Nantes, on the French Atlantic coast). He dodges some U.S. sailors as he drives much too fast through town.

Roland comes into a bar, he’s late for work. The barmaid, Claire, asks him about Jeanne. He’s kind of got an Angry Young Man attitude. Michel’s mom arrives, frantic, and asks for help; something about Michel. Then we learn that it was Michel in the Cadillac; he left seven years ago, and reappeared suddenly. His mom’s in a fit because she had a premonition about his return.

She relates to Claire and Roland how Michel left his wife and infant son years ago. Jeanne leaves, and so does Roland (Claire bugs him about being a lazy whiner). When he gets back to the office, his boss is upset about his chronic lateness “you have a major fault. You’re off in the clouds.” Sounds like Claire, doesn’t he?

Incredibly, his latest excuse is that he lost track of time trying to finish a novel. While conceding that it’s a great book (apparently an existentialist novel), the boss tells Roland, in so many words, to get lost. Out on the streets now, he goes into a theatre; the group of sailors we saw earlier try out the cabaret. They’re regulars, it seems.

The dancers are rehearsing; but then they start dancing with the sailors. one, Frankie, asks for Lola. He brings her whiskey and cigarettes, and he wants to sleep with her “again.” No dice on that. They go back to her shabby place, though, while her son plays outside. With the exception of Michel, who’s been talked about plenty, but only seen at a distance, we’ve met the main characters, all of them interesting.

Another street scene: the Desnoyers are shopping. They duck into a bookstore; mom complains to the clerk about the novel Justine “scandalous!” Oh, and Roland pops in just now. He gets a hand in the conversation by telling Cecile’s mom that he has a dictionary the girl might find useful.

He tells them that Cecile looks like ‘his’ Cecile (Lola). Anyway, he arranges to bring the book around to them. Then we segue back to Lola and Frankie; he’s no fresh-off-the-boat drunken sailor type–he seems like a good guy, and his French sounds fluent. She tells him that he looks like someone she loves (Michel).

Roland finds the dictionary, then goes to the bar. He complains “We don’t know how to live anymore. Me with my boss, you with your drunks.” He says he wants to travel. Claire tries to talk him into getting another job. On the street, he bumps into…Lola. they almost instantly recognize each other. It’s been ten years.

They’re both instantly enchanted, and arrange to meet later. When he goes to see about the job, however, everything seems mysterious. There’s travel involved, but for what? From Amsterdam to Johannesburg. Must be smuggling–he’s given a fake passport. Back with young Cecile and her mom.

Roland comes calling, they chat. He tells them his dad was a sailor, but his mom divorced him. He sums everything up by telling them that he has a date with the other Cecile. It’s as though meeting the girl Cecile foreshadowed meeting the woman Cecile. “Maybe I’ll look like her later” says the 14-year-old.

The mom really wants him to come back; he agrees to come for the girl’s birthday the next night. Young Cecile goes out shopping for dinner, and runs into Frankie, who coincidentally buys the last copy of the comic book title that she likes. He gives it to her anyway, and, then, kind of strangely, he walks with her. They talk about the upcoming fair. Another coincidence: he has a sister her age, who looks like her.

She runs off. At the cabaret the dancers talk. Lola practices a song. She has to rush off for her date with Roland, but Frankie’s outside, waiting for her. She sends him on his way. She’s talking non-stop, obviously excited, maybe nervous too. He tells her “Last time I saw you, you had braids” in contrast, that is, to her dancer’s get-up.

He tells her about his various jobs–that he’s no longer ambitious “I’m the quintessential failure.” He also admits that he was in love with her. They also talk about children; he says he likes kids, but it’s hard on kids who weren’t “wanted.” She takes that to mean that he wasn’t wanted.

Anyway, at the restaurant where they have dinner, she describes how she met Michel. At a fair, when she was fourteen. Come on, we’ve got another fourteen years old Cecile, who, like Lola, meets a blond sailor at a fair (Frankie). “I fell in love with him on the spot.” Then he (Michel) left, and came back “When I told him I was pregnant, he disappeared.” She’s carrying a huge torch for him.

Uh, oh, there’s that white Eldorado, parked right by the tobacco shop. “He’s probably fat and bald by now” Roland tells her. She thinks that’s hilarious. But he doesn’t waste time getting to the point; she says, however “don’t bother about me… I’m just a silly girl.” She starts sobbing, reminiscing, taking stock of her life all of a sudden “It’s all crashed down on me. It’s so stupid.”

She still thinks Michel is coming back–well, he has. Roland says goodbye in front of the cabaret. In the morning, Michel pulls up there too. She’s still with Frankie. As if by a signal, Michel takes off just as Lola and Frankie leave. Meanwhile, Roland goes to the bar and tells Claire about his furtive mission “A mysterious deal with a briefcase.” He tells her he doesn’t want to go through with it because he’s found love.

Roland wants to scout out the crooked hair saloon operator, but is distracted by seeing Lola with Frankie. His curiosity, if not his jealousy, is piqued, and he follows them back to her place. Oddly (not so much for this movie), Roland brings her son the same toy that Frankie did. Roland walks with her and the boy, as she talks in general terms about the sailors at the club.

He tells her that he’s not going after all, because he’s in love with her. He tells her, very romantically, how he’s thought about her all these years, and is overwhelmed on meeting up with her again. “You gave me a reason to live.” She says, however, that she doesn’t love him; it’s hard to know if they were even close as kids, as she says that she hardly knows him.

“I’ve never had a male friend, just guys chasing after me.” Good point, but he’s upset when she says that she’s going off with the sailor–and that the story about Michel might be just–a story. He won’t wait around for her to explain, and leaves. Now, at home, there’s Frankie, who says that he’s shipping out. (She did make up a story all right, but not about Michel). Frankie just says that he “really liked” her, and simply goes.

Segue back to young Cecile. Frankie happens to be walking by; she wants to give him the comic book back. Anyway, she decides to go to the fair with him. Hmm. Shouldn’t she ask mom? Guess not, more trusting times sixty years ago. The other thing is, like other motifs in this movie, the fair has more than casual meaning for the characters. They try the bumper cars, and other rides.

There’s some slow-motion as he lifts her out of a ride. It’s charming…nearly romantic. They’re hand-in-hand, running, then walking. Abruptly, though, he brings her up short; he’s after all shipping off soon and won’t see her again. It’s a poignant scene, but more symbolic of other partings in the movie than sad in itself.

Her mom’s a bit upset–where has she been, etc. She admits that she saw Frankie “My daughter out partying with serviceman!” mom wails. As planned, Roland comes for dinner. He’s obviously preoccupied, and tells moms the reason, that his love left with another man. He seems to have accepted it, at least to keep things pleasant for his hosts. Cecile asks him to explain about first love, and how it’s special and different.

Now it’s mom’s turn to feel bad, losing her husband, being stuck raising a daughter alone. He takes his leave; he’s departing on his journey too. He tells Jeane the situation. What’s this? Police and a crowd around the underground hair salon–diamond smuggling? Gee! Well, his timing’s good, as he’s still clean.

He sees Lola; they both apologize. She admits that she made up the thing about leaving with Frankie. “I thought you’d forgive me [for not loving him] if there were someone else.” She’s going to Marseilles. “We’re alone. And we stay alone.”

She playfully taunts “You think I should throw myself in your arms and and thank you?” He says: that would be a “miracle.” She says “it may happen.” She’ll be back in two months, and they’ll go from there. One last non-coincidental coicidence–young Cecile has gone to Cherbourg, ostensibly to her uncle’s, but we know it’s to intercept Frankie. Actually, her ‘uncle’ is her real father, which Cecile doesn’t know.

Well, no surprise to see that Eldorado again–Michel better be quick, as seemingly everyone is off to somewhere–Lola to Marseille, Cecile, and then her mom to Cherbourg, and Roland, still on his mission, or something. Finally Michel lands, so to speak, coming into the bar. He tells his mom that he’s come back to marry Michel. Next, of course, Roland just happens to pop in; he gets the lowdown on Michel’s return.

Roland says that he doesn’t want to stick around to meet the happy reunited couple; obviously they don’t know that it was Lola whom he was in love with. She’s taking her leave at the cabaret. And, viola! here’s Michel. Her co-workers are a more than a bit taken aback. He has his excuse ready-made, naturally: broke, stuck in the colonies, but “…if you still love me…” She does.

Driving away, she sees Roland walk by, and takes a last, full look at him. Not without a touch of regret in her eyes, she tells Michel, who noticed her sudden, odd reaction, that it was “nothing.” That is, nothing but first love, memory, longing–the theme of the film.

Lola is an incredibly romantic movie. It’s essentially about love–mostly unrequited love. It shows how the element of chance, and timing (very appropriate for the existentialist mind-set) can influence our most intense emotions. For example–if Roland had a shot at Lola before Michel came along (and, although it was in youth, he did). If Cecile (the younger) were in fact a bit older, then Frankie would take her more seriously.

If Roland were a bit older, he might be interested in Cecile’s mom. If Michel hadn’t returned, or came either before or after, he might’ve missed the boat with Lola. Frankie falls between two stools–two Ceciles, to be specific. The oddest thing is that the Michel/Lola relationship, which does ultimately work out, seems the least rewarding of all the other possibilities.

Maybe that’s a function of Michel’s character. He’s almost a blank slate, not really emerging until the very end, and not showing a great deal of personality even for that bit. We seem instead to root for Roland; nothing would be finer than for things to play out after she gets back from Marseilles. But then, of course, Michel torpedoes that.

Luckily, though, Roland has become a bit more resilient, both in love, and in life. I think the point is that everyone, even innocent Cecile, will be ok. In a mythic sense, the various journeys the characters embark on are as much psychological as physical. Actually, Roland’s Johannesburg thing can’t be taken literally anymore, because the heist had been nipped in the bud.

Lola is as complicated as Roland; she has three men more or less in her life, and only wants one. That being Michel, who’s virtually a ghost for most of the time. She’s in the unenviable position of attracting too much attention; which, in a sense just makes work for her. Even Roland, who genuinely loves her, is needy and demanding much of the time.

The maze of plot overlaps and motifs (the sailor, the 14-year-old girl, the fair, the absent father figure, the two Ceciles, all the journeys and departures) are maybe a bit too clever. The script is heavily psychological without the almost dreamlike layering of characters and scenes. On the other hand, the strong emotional content plays out within a very palpable atmosphere that’s anything but remote or escapist.

Everything fits, if we buy this magic realist tone. It’s something like recounting one’s life on a psychiatrist’s couch, from multiple perspectives. A character-driven movie if there ever was one, full of life, and therefore full of surprises. 9.5/10