19 September 2003 | thecineman
Leconte hits a rare sour note in this aimless film.
An American interviewing Patrice Leconte remarked that, since he had never seen a film by the French director that wasn't good, perhaps Leconte was incapable of making a bad film. To which Leconte quipped back that obviously this man had not seen all of his films. After witnessing "Felix and Lola" at a Leconte retrospective, I see what he meant. It's a real clunker, the first of Leconte's films I haven't liked. Once again exploring an offbeat relationship of an eccentric couple (as in "Monsieur Hire," "The Hairdresser's Husband," and "The Girl on the Bridge"), Leconte sets this story in a traveling carnival, where Felix (Phillippe Torreton), the man who runs the bumper car concession, falls for Lola (Charlotte Gainsbourg), a mysterious woman who obviously has sought him out. We learn little about her except that she looks scrawny and sad, smokes and lies a lot, and is stalked by an old lover. Felix is a decent chap but in fact is a lonely sad sack himself, pushing forty with few prospects. Since neither Felix nor Lola has more than a thimble full of brio, it is unsurprising that their encounters don't produce sparks or any real joy. The story goes round and round, like one of the carnival rides, but gets nowhere. Our glimpses of the hovering ex-lover are confused by the presence of yet another, somewhat older man who bears a facial resemblance to the other. Lola can be seen as a `borderline personality,' someone characteristically depressed and dependent who feels so insubstantial that she makes up stories about herself to enhance her sense of personal identity. Lola may not even be her name. The tests of love that she arranges for Felix would make any fellow with half a brain drop her like a hot potato. The precipitous ending does not ring true. The best things about this film are its amusement park visuals and the caring family of carneys who watch Felix's new love unfold, cheering him on even as they fret about whether things can work out for him with this odd and unpredictable woman. Neither romance nor any other sort of dramatic tension is conjured in this film; small wonder it never found a U.S. distributor.