Sunday, June 24, 2012

Lola [2012 digital restoration]


LOLA. FR 1961. D: Jacques Demy. Italian title: Lola, donna di vita. SC: Jacques Demy. DP: Raoul Coutard. ED: Anne-Marie Cotret. AD: Bernard Evein. M: Michel Legrand. C: Anouk Aimée (Lola), Marc Michel (Roland), Elina Labourdette (Madame Desnoyers), Jacques Harden (Michel), Alan Scott (Frankie), Margo Lion (Jeanne), Annie Duperoux (Cécile Desnoyers), Catherine Lutz (Claire). PC: Rome-Paris Films, EIA – Euro International Film. Premiere: 3 marzo 1961. [2K?] DCP. 85’. B&w. Versione francese / French version. From: Fondation Technicolor pour le Patrimoine du Cinéma. Viewed at Piazza Maggiore (Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato), Sunday, 24 June 2012. In the presence of Agnès Varda, Rosalie Varda, and Mathieu Demy. English subtitles on the DCP. Electronic subtitles in Italian.

1912. Novantasei film di cento anni fa. Grand piano: Gabriel Thibaudeau.
Pathé Courant 178A. FR 1912. 2’. 35 mm. A wonderful news mix.
Fleurs et fruits, reproduction par Chronochrome Gaumont. FR 1912. 4’. A digital-looking demonstration of the chronochrome colour world.

Since the original camera negative of Lola was destroyed in a fire, in 2000 a new internegative was made with the help of Archives Françaises du Film based on a copy found at the British Film Institute. The creation of the new internegative was supervised by Agnès Varda, aided by Raoul Coutard, the director of photography of Lola, for the exposure of the film. In 2012 Ciné Tamaris, Fondation Technicolor pour le Patrimoine du Cinéma, and Fondation Groupama Gan pour le Cinéma made a complete restoration of the film. Lola has returned to its original splendor thanks to the digital restoration of both image and sound.

Jean-Pierre Berthomé: “ In a film that takes place over a period of just three days, developing the characters seems impossible if the director refuses the convenience of flashbacks or long, biographical explanations. Demy resolved this problem – and with such elegance! – by offering a plural, fragmented vision, a portrait from many different perspectives. Frankie, for example, is Michel’s double – Michel as he was 8 years earlier, when he first met Lola at a party. And Lola herself is depicted as a mirror with three faces: on one side there’s Cécile – herself at fourteen with her adolescent dreams, her passion for dance, and her escapes to the fairgrounds; on the other there is Madame Desnoyers, ex-dancer, victim of her gambling husband who left her penniless and with a son […], full of regrets for what she was not able to achieve, incapable of accepting her own solitude and the desertion of her loved ones. At the center stands Lola – Lola to Richard, but Cécile to Michel – triumphant and fragile, full of faith in a future that, unbeknownst to her, will overwhelm her […]."

"This game of mirrors underlying the film generates a series of fascinating double perspectives that Demy takes advantage of every chance he gets: events and sentiments reproduce themselves in a closed-in universe whose fundamental law seems to be repetition. […] It is where situations repeat themselves, but also a magical space where it appears everyone is invited to a mysterious appointment: when, in one of the first shots, Michel arrives in Nantes, Lola has just been there three days, Frankie is just passing by with his boat, and Roland decides to leave. This world, in which everyone runs into one another, seems to be driven by a giant whirlwind that pushes the characters out of this vortex so that they can begin living out their own destinies. […] But the fate that has brought them together for only a few hours ends up multiplying the improbable encounters, forcing them to dance the dances of missed opportunities, missed collisions. Nantes becomes the forest in A Mid-Summer’s Dream where everyone chases after everyone else, where couples break up and come back together. […] This tangle of wanderers gets translated by the long camera movements, the importance of the city – its streets where people sometimes walk right by each other without noticing. It is there where Fate awaits at a bend in the road, from above on a set of stairs. Interior shots are rare and fleeting, and get dragged along by the frenetic desire to being immersed again in the perpetual motion that animates the world.” Jean-Pierre Berthomé, Jacques Demy et les racines du rêve, L’Atalante, Nantes 1982

AA: Revisited the first half an hour of Jacques Demy's masterpiece to appreciate the new digital restoration. Demy's sense of the fleeting and the transitory in life has lost none of its excitement. Since the original negatives have burned it seems to have become difficult to produce a good print of Lola. The movie on the 2K DCP looks clean and complete, but there is a duped or soft quality perhaps due to the resolution selected for the transfer. I miss the crisp and vibrant breath of Raoul Coutard's cinematography. Admittedly, on the giant screen of the Piazza Maggiore it is difficult to assess the visual quality of a print or a digital file.

P.S. 4 Sep 2012: Lasse Naukkarinen: "Raoul Coutard's use of available light in Lola was a big influence, but when Coutard was asked what was the magic secret, his answer was about the film stock Gevapan 36, which was sensitive and rich-toned."

P.S. 10 Oct 2012: from Dave Kehr's NYT article printed in International Herald Tribune I read that the source of the restoration has been a low contrast television print struck from the negative for BBC.

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