Dir: Juan Rebollo. Sp-Fr. 2006. 112mins.
After a long and successful career in short films,Juan Rebollo's much awaited feature debut All About Lola turnsout to be the kind of film one would rather talk about than watch.Intentionally hermetic, enormously self-indulgent and ignoring reality any timethat the real world disturbs its metaphor, it will test the endurance of eventhe most patient audiences.
Rebollo's takes as his theme inaction, as told through thelead character Leon (Abiteboul), an immature middle-agedman who has never been given the chance to live a life of his own, instead, latchingon to the lives of others to give sense to his own existence.
It is difficult to imaginethis type of film in anywhere but the most uncommercialarthouse venues, yet many critics will embrace it andlovingly try to unravel its mysteries. Festivals - it plays London among othersafter San Sebastian - will pick it up for their more challenging sections.
Leon, a quiet, introvertParisian, has nursed his ailing mother for most of his adult life. When shedies he is briefly elated, thinking he has finally been given back his life,before realising that there is nothing much he feels, dares or knows to doabout it.
Financially independent - evidentlyhe has never worked a day in his life - Leon spends his days in train stationsand bus depots, roaming streets and sitting in bars. He listens to otherpeople's conversations, opens his neighbours' letters, watches sex ads ontelevision and evidently yearns for company (and sex), but never does anythingabout it.
His life changes when Lola (Duenas), a young, noisy, highly-strung Spanish girl, moves innext door, entertaining her friends all hours, listening to loud music, evenknocking at Leon's door to ask for ice but never really noticing him.
Instead of complaining, Leonlistens intently, following Lola's comings and goings and stalking her everymoment of the day. He writes down minutely everything she does in his diary,which provides the film with its voice-over narration. Yet she is never reallyaware of his existence and they barely exchange a dozen words throughout.
The diary has it all downpat, from Lola looking for work and being caught shoplifting in departmentstores to drinking herself into a stupor, having an unhappy affair with amarried taxi driver and then returning to Spain to tell her mother she ispregnant. Throughout Leon tails her, unnoticed, though he makes no visibleeffort to hide his presence.
The images on screenfaithfully follow the text to the point where lines of dialogue are first heardin voiceover before being spoken by the character themselves onscreen.
When Lola is seriously hospitalised,Leon, who introduces himself to the doctors as her husband, is told she maynever regain consciousness. It makes him almost happy, for at least he hasagain a purpose in life and can care for Lola - until she wakes up.
Evidently bowing to Antonioni's incommunicability and Bresson'seconomy, All AboutLola looks like a low-key lament for someone who is allowing life to passhim by, unable to do more than watch, possibly because his personality has beensmothered in childhood by an authoritative parent.
In part Rebollois able to get away with it due to some of his characters' traits: Leon is economicallyindependent, through which he has a certain freedom; Lola seems to suffer apsychological blindness which prevents her from seeing someone who ispractically under her nose.
Michael Abiteboulplays Leon as a blank, passive onlooker, something of a challengingrole which he tries to alleviate mostly through the expression in his eyes andsmall touches like his nervous but unsuccessful attempts to cover his baldpatch.
At least Lola Duenas (seen recently in Almodovar'sVolver) isallowed a much wider gamut of emotions, from sad to despairing to happy toflirtatious, all of which she handles with natural flair.
Photography, most of itcomposed of medium shots, plays its part in making the 112-minute running timea gruelling affair, with a similar self imposed minimalist discipline in theproduction design and scenery. Editing ensures the narrative will not precipitateany action that risks raising the audience's pulse rate.
Lazannec & Associes
Angel Hernandez Zoido
Miguel Angel Rebollo