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Lolita, plump, in her 20s, desperately wants her father's attention. He's egotistical, a famous writer and publisher with an attractive wife little older than Lolita. She's in a choir, rehearsing for a concert; she's given her father a tape, which he's yet to listen to. Sylvia, a voice coach, is willing to help the group, knowing she'll have a chance to get her husband's new novel in front of Lolita's father. For Lolita, this is a pattern: people pay attention to her to gain access to him, something she fears is the intent of Sébastien, a struggling journalist who may become her boyfriend. The night of the concert, the music may bring out everyone's feelings. Written by
This brilliant film is called COMME UNE IMAGE (LIKE AN IMAGE) because it is really about the surface images, the appearances to which we attach value without knowing, or even caring sometimes, what's under the facade. The title is perhaps mildly ironic: not just 'like' an image, but exactly that. Almost every character in the story can be seen to fall under the influence of appearance. The appearance can be physical--beautiful or non-beautiful--but it can also be the appearance of what we want to see in others, or for our own lives. Lolita, the overweight heroine of the film, judges herself so harshly in terms of appearance that she is unable to accept the possibility of another not judging her so. She pursues a boy who is not truly interested in her, while dismissing the attention of a kind, handsome young man who is attracted to her as she is. Lolita is a desperately unhappy girl, yet she has inside of her a beautiful singing voice. At one point, another character even says he would not have thought she'd have a good voice to look at her. A probable source for Lolita's bad self-image is her father,Etienne, a successful, but petty, jealous, and self-obsessed novelist. As satellites for Lolita and Etienne we also have Vincent, a self-effacing hanger-on, and Karine, Etienne's second wife, a beautiful younger woman who's self-esteem is under constant pressure from both her husband and Lolita.
Opposed to this unhappy menage are Sylvia and Pierre. The latter is a bitter novelist who aspires to greater success. His wretchedness in only fueled by his wife's Sylvia's attempts to console or inspire him. As a singing teacher, Sylvia herself appears to find little satisfaction in her own life. In their company are also introduced Pierre's literary agent and a friend who feels exploited by the aspiring writer.
So, these two unhappy, and often unpleasant groups eventually find an intersection when Sylvia discovers that one of her pupils, Lolita, is the daughter of a famous author. Suddenly, the petulant student becomes interesting to her (she sees her differently, although she has not changed). Before long, Pierre and Etienne meet and the connection leads to success and new publishing offers for Pierre--although he seems not a bit happier because of them.
There is no need to explain the plot any further without spoiling the unalloyed pleasure of watching it unfold. This screenplay contains many brilliant examples of the way people respond to the wrong aspects of others, the way two people can see the same situation completely differently, the way it is so easy to misinterpret the intentions of others; and the way we are almost destined to exploit other people for our own ends. There is much commentary on the way society judges women on their appearance, and how "interesting" attractive or successful people can appear to be. The film has some great humor, and wonderfully ironic moments, like Pierre's embarrassed appearance on a ridiculous TV variety show after he finally achieves success; or the way Lolita's casual gesture of covering a fainted man with her jacket leads to a potential romantic connection.
COMME UNE IMAGE is a film about how strong the "image" of what we want, or think we want, can be, and how utterly it can delude us.
As actors, Jaoui, Bacri, Berry, and Bouhiza are downright brilliant in this film, And it is particularly impressive to realize that Jaoui directed herself so well in a film she co-wrote with Bacri.
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