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Sidse Babett Knudsen,
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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
The tremendously talented Agnes Jaoui, the director of "Look at Me", is a talented actress as well. The screen play is a collaboration with the principal actor in the film, Jean Pierre Bacri. The film's translation would have been better as "Like an Image", rather than the one it got. This is a film about disorientation and alienation between an impressionable young woman and her self centered father.
Young Lolita is a talented girl. She had tried to be an actress and now, as the film begins she is taking singing lessons. Her voice, indeed, is a powerful and beautiful instrument. Her music teacher, the kind Sylvia, has too much to do with all her students to pay particular attention to this plump, but pretty, girl until she hears about Lolita being the daughter of the influential Etienne Cassard.
The problem with Etienne is that he has married a younger woman who apparently loves him, but Karine has definite ideas about what is to have BCBG (bon chic, bon genre) among her circle. She's horrified to let her daughter have ice cream! Horreur! A chubby daughter, mais non! It is clear that Etienne couldn't care less for what happens to his older daughter, at the moment she most needs him. In a way, the image of the title is something this bourgeois man wants to maintain. He is one of the shallowest men in recent French movies! When at the end, during Lolita's triumphal recital, Etienne runs away from the church where the concert is being held, he does the ultimate coward act of his life; in a way he betrays the daughter who loves him and is trying to show she is worthy of his love.
The film is well written, but the problem is that some of the characters appear to be one dimensional people. There is no warmth whatsoever between anyone with the exception of the love that grows between Lolita and Sebastien, the young man that loves her in silence.
The lovely Marilou Berry makes a fabulous appearance. She is the only one in the film that gets our attention and compassion. Agnes Jaoui, is also the other one in the film that elicits our sympathy. Ms. Jaoui's Sylvia shows a complex woman turned off by all the shallowness around her, including her own husband Pierre. Jean Pierre Bacri, another excellent actor is given the terrible task to portray the horrible Etienne. The rest of the cast is good under Ms. Jaoui's direction.
This is a film that feels cold from beginning to end. That said, "Look at Me" offers us a good character study of the people that move in the literary circles, not only of France, but all over. No doubt the talented Ms. Jaoui's next time out will be even better!
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