Film School: Loulou

Film School is a series of posts I write based on an evening film course I am taking. Every week we watch and then discuss a different film for around two hours. This week’s film is Loulou

Loulou.jpgThe premise is this: “A young woman decides to leave her bourgeois husband to have an affair with a sexier man.” It would not take a genius to figure out that this may possibly be a movie that takes place in France. It may also not come as much as of a surprise that it stars two of France’s most famous actors of the last thirty years: Isabelle Huppert and Gérard Depardieu.

Huppert plays Nelly, a woman bored and frustrated by her marriage to Andre. She meets Loulou (Depardieu), someone much more able to meet all the desires her husband in unable to satisfy.

However, soon it becomes clear that trying to actually have a relationship with the unemployed, idle Loulou may not be as easy as she first imagined.

This leaves Nelly caught between two men. One who can satisfy her financial and intellectual needs, the other only capable of satisfying needs of a more physical nature.

Loulou may remind English-speaking audiences of the films of Ken Loach and Mike Leigh. While it may not have precisely the same political messages as their films, it nevertheless goes to great lengths to convince you of the depth of its world.

Its script is semi-improvised. For a non-French speaker such as myself, this is obviously difficult in pick up in the dialogue. Nevertheless, the movements of the characters do have a realism to them that reflects this improvised nature. Two ‘fight’ sequences in particular which are poles apart from the carefully choreographed kicks and punches of most modern Hollywood thrillers.

Characters are also given little introduction. Close friends of characters appear and then disappear, with little indication of their fates. In a typical Hollywood romance, Nelly would have a best friend to give her advice about choosing between her two men.

Here, her apparent best friend appears in the opening scene of the movie, and then is never heard from again. The nature of the world allows for the possibility that Nelly is in constant contact with her best friend, however, the impression given is that the director purposefully withholds these exchanges from us.

Despite these well executed features, Loulou goes someway short of being a great film. First of all, none of the characters are that sympathetic. And their dilemmas I found pretty difficult to relate to. In that way, it reminded me of Woody Allen’s Vicky, Christina, Barcelona. Not only because of the predicaments the characters find themselves in, but also because of the animalistic charm of the male leads (Bardem and Depardieu).

I also felt there are films which make better use of the realistic methods used (Leigh’s and Loach’s being among them). As a disclaimer, I should say that given the importance of hearing dialogue in these British directors’ films, it may be that the movie is given an added dimension if one actually speaks French. I can only imagine the diluted experience of watching a film like The Social Network without actually hearing both the rhythm and meaning of the words together.

Loulou is a film I found difficult to love. While there are some good techniques used to tell its story, its main problem comes in telling a story I found it difficult to connect with.

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