I started this entry 3 months ago and then I dropped it, so I’m just going to start it again:
I know, I know. This is supposed to be a Book Review blog, but I can’t help myself. Also, a little change never hurt anyone.
So, before I start this review, I want to acknowledge how different these two films are: Le Notti Bianche is an Italian film made in 1957 by Luchino Visconti based on Dostoevsky’s short story “White Nights”. Lola is the debut film of French director Jacques Demy that is noted for being a tribute to Max Ophüls / based off of Josef von Sternberg’s 1930 film Der blaue Engel (staring Marlene Dietrich who played a burlesque performer named Lola Lola. I tried to watch the film, but it was too boring and too rough, so I didn’t end up finishing it. Oh well).
So, they sound pretty different right? Right!
BUT there are similarities! For one, Le Notti Bianche stars Marcello Mastroianni. Lola stars the incredible, the amazing, Anouk Aimée (I’m quasi obsessed with her lately, so bare with me). The two starred in Fellini’s La Dolce Vita and 8 1/2. Pretty snazzy, right?
But, the most important similarity and the one that I want to focus on in this review, is the idea of waiting for someone. Both deal with women who are waiting for the love of their lives, BUT more of that later.
Le Notti Blanche (White Nights in English) follows Mastroianni as he plays the isolated and lonely, Mario, who is new to town. The film opens to Mario roaming the streets late at night (sometime after 10 pm – everything in this film happens around 10 pm) and while roaming he sees the lonely, young, and crying, Natalia (Maria Schell). Their first encounter is less than romantic. Mario watches her from afar, and what I can only guess is that he think she’s a prostitute (she’s not and they comment upon that fact within the first 5 minutes of speaking to each other), then suddenly she is bombarded by two sleazy, Italian teenagers on a vespa who want to have a “good time with her”. Needless to say, Mario comes to the rescue and thus starts their initial interaction. Mario is honest and pursues Natalia, while Natalia tries to dodge his advances. She does so by convincing him she has to go home (which is a lie, right after he leaves her, she runs back to the place she was crying) and agreeing to meet him the next night, at the same time, at the same place.
Thus begins their two day relationship. Mario excitedly goes to meet Natalia at the same place, only to have her run away AGAIN! After he chases her down, she finally gives up and the two start a friendship. Natalia’s back story is that of being a bird trapped in cage – her grandmother locks her in the house because she is afraid her granddaughter will run away with a strange man. The grandmother is so overprotective that she pins Natalia’s skirt to her skirt to know where her granddaughter is at all hours of the day! (She also does this because she is blind) Natalia reveals to Mario that she ran away because she didn’t want Mario to believe she was “that kind of girl” (again with the whore references), but she loosens up and begins to tell Mario her “common tale”.
Her tale being, of course, she goes to the same spot every night because she is waiting for her lover. A year ago, a man, who remains unnamed (Jean Marais) rented a room at her grandmother’s house. For Natalia it was love at first sight. She spends her days sneaking into his room until finally she is caught by the tenant and he asks her out for a date. She says no because she knows her grandmother will not approve, so the tenant gives her books to read and she spends weeks agonizing over her choice and reading out loud to her grandmother. Finally, the tenant takes out Natalia and her grandmother to the opera “The Barber of Seville” and the two confess their love to each other. The next day, Natalia who is overcome with joy and love is heartbroken because the tenant says he has to LEAVE FOR A YEAR! He claims he has to go settle business, get money, and then will come back and marry her. The two spend their last night walking around the city and they promise to meet in the same location a year later. This is why Natalia waits at the same spot (an abandoned plot of land) every night after 10 pm. It has been over a year.
Mario is stunned by Natalia’s story and falls madly in love with her insanity, her loyalty, and most of all, her innocence. The clincher of the story is that Natalia does not ask her lover about his whereabouts, NOTHING. She patiently waits for him for a year and knows that he is BACK IN TOWN, but she is too shy to speak to him (she knows where he is staying too!) Mario convinces her to write him a letter, which she already did, and he says he will deliver it for her. Natalia believes him and thanks him profusely for his generosity and understanding. When Natalia finally leaves to go home, Mario shreds the letter to pieces.
The following night Mario avoids an eager Natalia, who finds him and follows him (how the tables have turned!). Mario takes her to a cafe with dancing and liquor and the two dance the night away, to Natalia’s glee – this is the first time she has ever gone out this late and done something this fun and rebellious. Natalia is so overcome with happiness and Mario is so overcome with her beauty that the two forget about going to the meeting spot at 10 pm. Once Natalia realizes that it is past 10 pm, she panics and frantically runs to the spot only to fall and start hysterically crying. Mario, who is appalled by her behavior, yells at her, tells her that her beloved will never come, calls her crazy, admits that he destroyed the letter, and leaves her alone in the spot where she was promised her love would be.
What happens next is actually really depressing…the two lose hope in everything. Mario visits a prostitute, which ends up with him being beaten up and Natalia loses all hope of ever finding her beloved again. The two meet in the white snow and Natalia finally admits that she gives up. Mario confesses his love for her and the two have a romantic night filled with false promises and dreams. A beaten Natalia looks at a hopeful Mario and silently agrees to all the future plans he makes for the two. At the peak of her depression (her face is so sad and pathetic it’s actually heartbreaking), she sees at the exact location that she always meets her beloved….HER BELOVED! He’s there! And without a moment’s hesitation she screams his name and runs into his arms.
The two embrace and kiss until Natalia realizes that she left Mario and destroyed his dreams. She apologizes, but admits that she found the love of her life. Mario leaves alone, like the beginning, but grateful for the short bit of hope and happiness that Natalia gave him. Natalia leaves happy as a clam with her beloved.
On to Lola! Lola is a bit more jazzy and a lot less depressing and takes place is Nantes, France. The story centers around Roland and his plight for finding the meaning of life and he finally finds a meaning by ways of Lola, who he has always had a crush on.
Anouk Aimee plays Lola, who is a cabaret dancer (her real name is Cécile) and an old friend of Roland. Much like Natalia, Lola is waiting for Michel, her only love and the father of her seven- year-old son. Roland is not the only one who vies for Lola’s affection, Frankie, the American sailor, also wants Lola. Unfortunately for those men, Lola’s heart belongs to Michel, who she has been waiting for….for seven years (and I thought Natalia’s wait was bad…).
The film follows the every day events of Lola, Roland, and Frankie. Roland and Franky meet another, younger Cécile, who resembles a much younger Lola in looks, attitude, and choice in men.
This younger Cécile falls in love with Frankie and follows him to another town to be with him (sound familiar?). Before this all happens, Lola sleeps with Frankie (she swore that before Frankie she was faithful to Michel only dancing in the cabaret) because he resembles a much younger Michel and…she has been waiting SEVEN YEARS FOR HIM!
Lola’s story is also similar to Natalia’s in that she met a man, fell in love immediately, however Lola got pregnant. Once Michel found out he said he was going to leave to find fortune for his wife and unborn child and promised to come back as a man his family could be proud of. Like Natalia, Lola does not question his departure or ask for his address, instead she waits…years and years. The two also have similar personalities in that they are playful and flirty and young at heart and incredibly optimistic when it comes to love, but once they meet the male protagonists in the film…the two start to see the cracks in their decisions. For Lola it takes two men and seven years for her to realize that Michel is never going to come back…at that very moment Roland confesses his love to Lola…only to be rejected. The film ends with Roland taking a boat out of France and Lola on her way to leave the city for another job because she has finally given up hope. As soon as she gives up….MICHEL APPEARS!
The reunion between the old lovers is incredibly touching and all is forgotten – much like Natalia and her lover. The lovers and their son then drive off in Michel’s convertible, all smiles.
So, would I recommend these films? I think so. Lola is extremely entertaining and beautifully shot. The scene with Frankie and the younger Cécile in the amusement park is absolutely breathtaking. You can really see how the two fall for each other in that exact moment. Also, anything with Anouk Aimee is wonderful, she is so charming. Le Notti Bianche is a bit more depressing, but also entertaining and Marcello Mastroianni is like an Italian god – the definition of handsome and a wonderful actor. So, yes! Check out both!
I also like the idea of exploring the concept of waiting. These two characters are so innocent when they meet the love of their lives, and struggle with loneliness and other issues in order to remain faithful to the men that they love. The films seems to say that with suffering and loss comes reward. As soon as the two women are finally pushed to their limits of not believing and are about to just abandon their dreams, everything comes true. I’m not sure this is the moral to go by, but there’s something to it. I always held the belief that waiting doesn’t make the heart grow fonder, it only makes the heart forget, but I could be wrong. Anyway, check out these films, you won’t regret it.
Also, I promise to update more, it’s been ages and I’ve been way too lazy. So expect updates! For now I leave you with this: