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The innovations of the French New Wave were many, but one was the uncorking of sheer joy: joy in youth, joy in rule-breaking, joy in cinema. No film of the era is more blissful than Jacques Demy's Lola, a bittersweet ode to first loves and missed opportunities. Gorgeously photographed by Raoul Coutard (shortly after his groundbreaking work on Breathless), it's set in the atmospheric seaside town of Nantes. At the center of the interlocking storylines is a dancer (the stunning Anouk Aimée), who reunites with an ennui-burdened childhood friend (Marc Michel) but pines for the memory of a long-lost sailor. Lola points toward Demy's subsequent musical treasures, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg and The Young Girls of Rochefort, which together form one of the great happy visions in all of movies: a niche between workaday reality and a fairy-tale world in which everything works out exactly as it should. --Robert Horton
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