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    Look at Me

    Class struggle

    Agnes Jaoui follows up "The Taste of Others," her warm take on the working class denizens of a local bistro, with "Look at Me," a scathing attack on the lifestyles of the Parisian literati, as well as their parenting styles or lack thereof.


    First seen last year as the coveted New York Film Festival Centerpiece, Agnes Jaoui's "Look at Me" jumps the dreaded sophomore curse by offering a gloriously dark vision of both the human comedy and the power of fame.

    Original title: Comme une image.
    Directed by: Agns Jaoui.
    Written by: Jean-Pierre Bacri, Agns Jaoui.
    Cast: Marilou Berry, Agns Jaoui, Jean-Pierre Bacri, Laurent Grvill, Virginie Desarnauts, Keine Bouhiza, Grgoire Oestermann, Serge Riaboukine, Michle Moretti.
    Cinematography: Stphane Fontaine.
    Edited by: Franois Gdigier.
    In French with English subtitles.

    Related links: Official site
    NY Film Festival 2004

     Bad Education
     House of Flying Daggers
     Infernal Affairs trilogy
     Look at Me
     Notre Musique
     Or (My Treasure)
    • Sideways
     Triple Agent
     Woman Is the Future of Man
     The World

     Official site
    For anyone who was an overweight teen, "Look at Me" offers little comfort, and for everyone else, it's an equally uncomfortable comedy of Parisian literary manners. Co-starring, directing and writing (again) with her now-ex-husband, Jean-Pierre Bacri, auteur Jaoui creates the ironically named Lolita (Marilou Berry).

    A dowdily plump and rather whiny 20-year-old, Lolita is ill-fit to be the daughter of Etienne (Bacri), the narcissistic literary "monstre-sacr" who fathered her — but ignores her completely. Etienne has a new second family, replete with a young and beautiful wife, plus a pretty and skinny younger daughter who will no doubt develop eating disorders just like her mother.

    Lolita, in a vain effort to win her father's approbation if not his love, tries to develop a talent and, after failing at art, takes up singing. Her voice is pleasant but minuscule, although she does join a choral group which sings the classics — difficult ones, including Handel and Mozart. Enter Jaoui as Sylvia, the chorale leader/teacher and bourgeois wife of semi-failed writer Pierre (Laurent Grvill).

    Look at Me  
    Just as Sylvia is on the verge of telling Lolita that the chorale is not really for her and vice-versa, she learns of her pupil's famous parentage and uses this slight connection to maneuver an introduction to Etienne for Pierre. For a while, Sylvia's semi-feigned attention gives Lolita the boost her family can't supply and she even meets a boy, Sbastien (Keine Bouhiza), who really seems to like her.

    But be forewarned, this is neither "Rocky," where the seeming loser wins at the end, nor a Disney-esque hugs-will-heal-all-wounds family drama. It is rather, an honest dissection of a stratum of society that Jaoui obviously knows and probably detests. Etienne is a horror as a father, a friend, and even as a writer. He wields and abuses the power he holds while Lolita wallows in her misery, unable to see real affection or interest when it presents itself in the person of Sbastien. Pierre gets a taste for the high life he encounters with Etienne, and in this merry rondelet, almost no one is ever happy. And so it goes.

    Those who watch those intellectual French programs on the CUNY network, may imagine this to be the biography of some of those clever people who appear on them. For the rest of us, it's an expos of a superficial world and Jaoui revels in her revelations. Her exceptional script won the first prize at Cannes last year, which is not surprising since Jaoui also won Cesars for Best Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress for "Same Old Song." She's currently co-starring in "La Role de Sa Vie."

    APRIL 1, 2005

    Reader comments on Look at Me:

  • Look at Me   from Bebe, May 3, 2005
  • theme song?   from DM, Aug 1, 2010

  • Post a comment on "Look at Me"