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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
COMME UNE IMAGE (LOOK AT ME) is a tough little film that practically defies the viewer to love it. Rated as a comedy, it has few chuckles of the usual kind, but the smart tidy script delivers more of the Reformation-type comedy - wit with a bite. Writer/director and star Agnès Jaoui (her co-author is her ex-husband Jean-Pierre Bacri who also stars) is obviously an intelligent, observant, caustic chronicler of contemporary French society who dotes on celebrities at the expense of their own self-respect. Not a single character in this film is likable, but each one is fascinatingly interesting and a bit warped. Their interaction provides the venom that in Jaoui's hands raises the bar on the range of comedy.
Étienne Cassard (Jean-Pierre Bacri) is a famous writer whose latest novel has been 'transformed' into a schmaltzy film about which he is loathsomely embarrassed. He is caustic, acerbic, and emotionally negligent of both his grown obese daughter Lolita (Marilou Berry), who devotes her resentful life in an attempt to being a famous concert singer, and to his new wife Karine (Virginie Desarnauts) and little daughter. Lolita's music coach is Sylvia (Agnès Jaoui) whose demands on her students reflect her frustrated life being married to an unknown author Pierre (Laurent Grévill). Odd paths cross and it is through Lolita's influence as the daughter of a famous writer Étienne that Sylvia arranges for Pierre to join forces with Étienne and gain acceptance and popularity, but the consequences include Sylvia's increased tutelage for Lolita and her group of fellow madrigal singers.
Lolita comes the closest to being a character about whom we care. She is distraught about her weight, her distant father, her stepmother and stepsister, her inability to gain the affection for the boy of her dreams, her struggle to become a significant performer - all of which prevents her from recognizing the man who could salvage it all - Sébastien (Keine Bouhiza) who literally falls at her feet! All of these characters interact in complex and at times trying ways, ever cognizant of the 'authority of celebrity' and the results of these engagements form the body of the film. The acting is on a high level, the dialogue is crisp and smart, and the musical background for this mélange is a gorgeous mixture of classical music ranging from Buxtehude through Schubert ('An die Musik' plays a big role!) and many others. This 'comedy' is more intellectual than entertaining, but if wit and elegance of acting brings you joy, then this is a film to see. In French with subtitles at a long 2 hours! Grady Harp
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