LOLA, one of the last films made by Rainer Werner Fassbinder before his death in 1982 at the age of 36, is one of his most entertaining and stylish films, a BLUE ANGEL-style allegory dealing with personal and political corruption in 1950s Germany, with superb performances by Barbara
Sukowa and Armin Mueller-Stahl.
In a small West German town in the mid-1950s, singer/prostitute Lola (Barbara Sukowa) is the mistress of wealthy and corrupt building contractor Schuckert (Mario Adorf), and also the mother of his illegitimate child. Lola works at Schuckert's nightclub/bordello, which he uses to entertain the
crooked mayor (Hark Bohm) and his city council cronies. When an idealistic building commissioner named Von Bohm (Armin Mueller-Stahl) is appointed, he immediately shakes things up, and intimidates Schuckert. Lola bets Schuckert she can seduce Von Bohm, and she does. She then begins an affair with
him, never revealing her true identity. Eventually, Von Bohm buys her an engagement ring, but she tells him that he should leave town because he's too honest, and sends him a letter breaking off their engagement.
Von Bohm is informed by his assistant Esslin (Matthias Fuchs) that Schuckert is behind the town's political corruption and takes him to Schuckert's nightclub. When Lola comes out and does a sexy song-and-dance number, Von Bohm is stunned and he storms out. He then goes on a crusade to destroy
Schuckert and all the crooked politicians, but finds that even the town's newspaper is controlled by Schuckert. He joins a group of radical protesters and tries to fight the town's corrupt power structure, but gives up when Schuckert comes and tells him to take Lola and do whatever he wants with
her. Von Bohm gets drunk and goes to the club and pays to sleep with Lola, making her realize that he loves her. They get married with Schuckert's blessing, who gives them the club as a wedding gift, but he continues to have an affair with the willing Lola.
LOLA was the second of Fassbinder's trilogy of historical satires dealing with democracy and the free enterprise system in post-WWII Germany (in between THE MARRIAGE OF MARIA BRAUN and VERONIKA VOSS), and is set against the backdrop of that country's so-called "Economic Miracle" of the 1950s. It's
a political fairy tale about duplicity and hypocrisy in which everything, including ethics and human flesh, is for sale, and self-esteem and worth is measured only in terms of money. Lola's desire to rise above being a whore is motivated not by a sense of morality or redemption, but because she
wants to be one of "them," that is, the social elite as represented by Schuckert's bitchy snob of a wife. When Schuckert tells her that a man of Von Bohm's stature would never look at her, she dresses like a sweet, virginal little girl, replete with a flowered dress and lace veil, and maneuvers to
get him to kiss her hand in public. As their affair progresses, he takes her to church and they sing a canon (in a beautiful and moving scene), and her feelings for him are genuine, but she is unable to recognize that he truly loves her--and vice-versa--until he breaks down and pays to have sex
with her, and drunkenly orders her to strip. The dual nature of the characters is visualized by Fassbinder's audacious use of flamboyant lighting and gaudy colors to separate the main locales: Von Bohm's sterile office (fluorescent greens), Lola's silky, doll-filled bedroom (pinks and lavenders),
and the sleazy nightclub (garish reds and blues). Even in the same shot, Von Bohm's face will be frequently covered in blue, while Lola's is always in red.
The scenes in the club, with their baroque lighting, images of sexual depravity, and Lola's sensuous songs, are the most redolent of Josef Von Sternberg's classic THE BLUE ANGEL (1930), but whereas in that film, the self-righteous Emil Jannings character is ultimately destroyed by his obsession
for Marlene Dietrich's ruthless Lola-Lola, Von Bohm happily accepts his deal with the devil Schuckert in exchange for a sham marriage to Lola, who truly cares for him, but knows no other morality than to continue being a whore, and whose highest aspiration is to be an "expensive mistress."
Though more traditional in its narrative style than most of Fassbinder's previous films, he still utilizes some brilliant distancing techniques to remind us we're watching an artificial creation, such as the startling out-of-focus scene transitions accompanied by bizarre, hyper-melodramatic music,
and some customary deadpan, satirical humor, as in the scene where one of the whores discusses getting married, saying how she'll be pure if she waits four weeks, but later dumps her fiance after he has a motorcycle accident ("I'm not going to leave all this for a guy with a broken head"); and the
images of Von Bohm's spiritual and mental dissolution as he sits in the dark, staring at a test pattern all night after buying a TV set. (Profanity, sexual situations.)
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- Released: 1981
- Rating: R
- Review: LOLA, one of the last films made by Rainer Werner Fassbinder before his death in 1982 at the age of 36, is one of his most entertaining and stylish films, a BLUE ANGEL-style allegory dealing with personal and political corruption in 1950s Germany, with sup… (more)