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 (2004) was co-scripted and directed by Agnès Jaoui. (The film is known as Look at Me in the U.S. It's a reasonable title--just not the title the Director gave it.)
The plot concerns a group of educated and successful Parisians whose lives intersect in both Paris and Burgundy. The protagonist is Lolita Cassard, played by Marilou Berry. Lolita is a dedicated vocal student, whose most serious problem is that her father--played by Jean-Pierre Bacri--is too self-absorbed to pay much attention to her. Étienne Cassard is a noted author and publisher, who cares about his work, his position of power, and, to some extent, his beautiful trophy wife and their young daughter (Lolita's half-sister). Lolita's life is more trouble to him than he cares to accept, so he chooses to ignore her or belittle her.
Lolita is overweight, and acutely conscious of this because she is surrounded by elegant women of all ages who are slender. Lolita blames her problems on her weight and--reasonably enough--she can't bring herself to accept her father's lack of interest, let alone his lack of compassion.
Into this equation comes Sylvia Millet, Lolita's vocal coach. Incredibly, director/screenwriter Jaoui also stars in this pivotal role. (It's hard to believe that Jaoui can be both an outstanding director and an experienced star. It's even harder to believe that she can direct herself in such a nuanced and intelligent performance. She must be Wonder Woman!)
Sylvia has true compassion and affection for Lolita, but she's not a saint, and is not above using her influence with Lolita to advance her husband's writing career.
To my mind, Agnès Jaoui represents the perfect French film star. She looks talented, intelligent, and strong, and she's also very attractive in a non-conventional way.
One reviewer wrote, "Look at Me is about nothing and everything simultaneously." I disagree. It's not about everything, but it is about love, friendship, ambition, hurtfulness, and betrayal.
Classical music is played and sung throughout the film, and it's outstanding. Be prepared to hear songs and arias by Verdi, Offenbach, Monteverdi, and Mozart.
Jaoui (with her costar Bacri) won the Best Screenplay award at Cannes. With great acting, direction, music and script, this movie is not to be missed!
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