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Felix et Lola is definitely a minor entry in Patrice Leconte's resume, but slight as it is I actually found myself enjoying it more than the more showy La Fille sur la Ponte. There is barely enough plot for a short film - Felix operates the bumper cars at a fairground and becomes infatuated with the obsessively secretive Lola when she asks for a job
but there's enough atmosphere and film-making savvy to compensate.
Indeed, it's pleasures are far more cinematic than narrative, whether it's Leconte's great sense of place or even little, possibly even accidental details - there's a striking shot of Lola walking along a road where the hemline of her skirt starts at exactly the same point as the hedge line in the background of the scope frame creating a brief moment of visual symmetry that I found inexplicably wonderful for absolutely no reason.
The final revelation about Lola's past and the singer who is - possibly
stalking her that so many found trite I actually found very apt,
especially set against an environment where strangers are seeking moments of anonymous excitement. It seems both right and believable, and Leconte also manages to pull off the test of love that she sets Felix, which could have been so ridiculously melodramatic. There's also a lovely moment with a photo booth, where Felix waits outside and asks Lola to smile if they have a future and frown if they don't: that way she doesn't have to say anything. Her actual response is very different and, for this admirer of Rene Magritte's work at least, rather clever.
Gainsbourg, who can be irritating or flat with the wrong director gives her role much more than is on the page, although Philippe Torreton's performance isn't quite so impressive. He's too good an actor not to be good, but at the same time you get the sense that there are limitations to his range: suffering, frustration or obsession are his forte, but the lighter notes can look awkward on him - he doesn't seem built for happiness.
It's a minor film, but one I found surprisingly enjoyable. Available on DVD in France with English subtitles.
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