Lola Pater: "You can very well see that your father isn’t here"
by Fabien Lemercier
- LOCARNO 2017: A touching and insightful film by Nadir Moknèche about family life, roots and identity, with the exceptional Fanny Ardant as the transsexual Lola
The death of a mother can unleash an unexpectedly powerful force into a man’s life, as is the case for Zino, the main character in Nadir Moknèche’s new film. Lola Pater [+see also:
film profile]’s world premiere will feature as part of the Piazza Grande programme at the 70th Locarno Festival. The young Parisian, supposedly comfortable in his own skin and a piano tuner by profession (played by the promising Tewfik Jallab), finds that the emptiness left by his mother’s death is intensified by the repressed grief he feels for the extended absence of his father, who abandoned his wife and son 25 years previously. This is the premise for the latest film by the Franco-Algerian director, who is already well respected for his previous works The Harem of Madame Osmane, Viva Laldjérie, Délice Paloma [+see also:
film profile] and Goodbye Morocco [+see also:
Moknèche delicately tells a painful and difficult story without sensationalising the subject matter, instead injecting life into the film, creating a comical distance to a situation that could otherwise be very heavy going. As Zino’s story progresses, he goes on to discover rather quickly that his father, Farid, has become a woman, Lola, who is brought to life by the wonderful Fanny Ardant.
As instructed by the notary responsible for his inheritance, Zino travels to the south of France to deliver the news of his mother’s passing to the man who was once her husband. But Farid/Lola now lives a happy life with her wife, teaching dance classes, and chooses to hide from Zino, unable to deal with the potential impact of their meeting. Through great emotional turmoil, Lola finds courage (“I need to go alone. I’m afraid. I abandoned him, and then 25 years later, I show up. How do you think that’s going to go?) and arranges a meeting in Paris with Zino, who has since returned to his daily life, unaware of Farid’s metamorphosis and slowly starting to heal through a nostalgia for his parents’ past. However, Zino’s latent desire to rediscover his unknown father is turned completely upside down when he meets Lola for the “first” time ("Is this some kind of joke? Stay away! You’re sick!"), before he enters a phase of progressive acceptance. The two characters edge closer together, slowly getting to know each other ("A funny father you have there!"). But somewhere beyond the changes in sexual identity, which Lola eventually sheds some light on (“You can’t begin to imagine the suffering caused by living in a body that’s not your own”), is a matter that threatens to destroy her relationship with Zino for good: a father abandoning his son.
Shot with discreet excellence and taking full advantage of well-known cinematographer Jeanne Lapoirie, Lola Pater is an attractive film, a reserved refusal of the folklore surrounding transsexuality. It prefers instead to weave a delicate plot, detailing the relationship between a child and parent, showing us the importance of roots and offering the audience a more open-minded view on a subject that is so often exaggerated on screen. A sweet and sunny approach that owes a lot of its pertinence to the performances of the two main characters (very well supported by Nadia Kaci) as well as Nadir Moknèche’s sensitivity, a director-cum-scriptwriter who has a particularly sharp instinct for narrative rhythm.
Produced by Blue Monday Productions and in co-production with Belgian outfit Versus, Lola Pater will be released in French cinemas by ARP Sélection on 9 August. Doc & Film is responsible for its international sales.
(Translated from French)
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