Félix et Lola Review

Félix (Philippe Torrenton) works at a funfair, operating the bumper-cars. One day he sees Lola (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and with a sad, oppressed look in her eyes she immediately stands out from everyone else at the funfair. Félix tries to get to know her and offers her a job. Does this sound familiar so far? Anyone seen The Girl On The Bridge (circus knife-thrower offers job to depressed girl who is about to throw herself off a bridge)? There is never a great deal of variation in Patrice Leconte’s characters or situations. Maybe it’s just me, but Leconte usually pulls-off this kind of situation with enough verve, wit and style that the familiarity and predictability of it all doesn’t really matter. Not this time though...

Leconte has two great actors to work with here – Tavernier regular, Philippe Torrenton (Ça Commence Aujourd’hui) and Charlotte Gainsbourg (La Bûche), but he doesn’t develop the characters enough to give them anything to work with. Partly this is intentional – the principal theme of the film is the fiction we create around our everyday lives, the identities and disguises we forge for ourselves and that other people imagine for us. The problem with this in Félix et Lola is that the fictions are so thin and the characters so vague and insubstantial that the story and the film are rendered completely inconsequential - an anti-plot non-story, a non-film, a non-event.

With Patrice Leconte this wouldn’t necessarily be a problem. The plots of La Fille Sur Le Pont, Rue des Plaisirs (Love Street) and The Hairdresser’s Husband were also pretty ludicrous. They at least provided a framework for the director to work on other elements apart from plot, the formal elements of the mise en scène, the mood and the atmosphere that helps carry the whole thing off. In Félix et Lola, the fairground setting allows the director to play with bold, luminous neon-lit colour schemes, the fictions of the characters lives highlighted by the artificiality of the lighting. Similarly, the framing of the characters is constantly shifting (Leconte can be seen in the making of operating the camera himself), never fixed, always trying to probe, searching to find something in the characters’ expressions, their looks their mannerisms. In the end however, there is nothing to find. The characters are vacuous and the plot is so thin it practically implodes. This is of course the director’s and the writer’s intention, but it doesn’t leave us with much of a film.

Félix et Lola is one of the ‘missing’ Leconte films, which along with Rue des Plaisirs (Love Street) (2002), was never released or distributed in the UK (a gap which has now been bridged by L'Homme du Train, also scripted by Claude Klotz). The French however have been kind enough to provide English subtitles on their Region 2 edition, which is good news for all those Leconte completists (I’m sure I’m not the only one). There are no English subtitles however on the extra features.

It’s a French DVD, so of course the picture quality is superb. There is not a mark, scratch or any sign of damage on the print. It is not perfect, but if you want to see any compression artefacts you are going to have to look really hard, frame by frame or in slow motion, so to all intents and purposes it might as well be perfect. It is certainly not worth deducting a point for. The colours are bright and vivid, glorious neon-lit funfair exteriors, warm rich skin tones and deep and satisfying blacks.

The sound design is excellent, the surrounds evoking the murmur of crowds and the reverberation of funfair background music.

Making of (14.34)
Patrice Leconte loves making films – he rivals Woody Allen for consistency of output. Unlike Woody Allen however, he loves talking about making films just as much. If you have ever seen a Leconte making-of or listened to one of his commentaries, you’ll have witnessed the enormous enthusiasm he has for his craft. He talks here about the challenges and excitement each new project brings and the approach and technical challenges that made Félix et Lola an interesting project for him. He is quite candid about the similarities to other of his films, even referring to Félix et Lola as being practically a colour version of La Fille Sur Le Pont. The making of is in French with no English subtitles.

Trailers (1.46)
Three short trailers or TV Spots for the feature are presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic.

Animated scrolling filmographies are provided for Charlotte Gainsbourg, Philippe Torreton, Alain Bashung, Philippe du Janerand and Patrice Leconte.

As Leconte says in the Making of, Félix et Lola is another ‘boy meets girl’ film and he doesn’t really know how to do anything other than that. When he has a strong script, Leconte can do wonders with that subject (Ridicule, Monsieur Hire), turning even silly romantic whimsy into something special. In Félix et Lola however the story is literally just ‘boy meets girl’ and it is nothing special.

5 out of 10
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