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L'idole (2002)

Directed by
Samantha Lang

Screenplay by
Gerard Brach and Samantha Lang

Working entirely in French and shooting in Paris, director Samantha Lang has fashioned a spellbinding tale that shows her at the height of her powers. Wonderfully supported by a talented cast led by Leelee Sobieski and James Hong, L’Idole is a brilliantly crafted film that is at once disturbing and affirming.

Sobieski plays Sarah, a young actress who moves into a rambling old apartment block peopled by an odd assortment of aging and endlessly curious tenants. Initially, she is accompanied by her boyfriend, with whom she engages in gymnastic sex. But he is soon dumped, arousing the benign – and not-so-benign – interests of a couple of older men, one of whom has ogled her shamelessly. The other, Zao (Hong), is an elderly, refined Chinese man with whom Sarah begins a relationship that forms the core of this exquisitely conceived film.

Sarah Silver

Zao slowly becomes intrigued by his beautiful new neighbour and begins entering Sarah’s open doorway with increasing frequency. The day she reveals her plans for destructive revenge, he proposes a pact: he will cook for her until the fateful date. Thus a bond is forged, portrayed by Lang with loving care. Zao is a consummate gentleman and his old-world charms soon win over Sarah, who has known only the selfish behaviour of loutish boyfriends. He brings order and serenity into her life, treats her like a lady and prepares magnificent, visually beautiful meals for her. He is connected with all the senses and his sensuality slowly carries over into an ambiguously erotic relationship, subtly depicted by the actors and filmed with immense sensitivity. However, as Sarah’s behaviour becomes more and more erratic, Zao finds that he must call upon all his inner resources to deal with his own growing emotions.

Reflective, serene and spiritual, L’Idole is truly erotic when it needs to be, but this is only one of its delights. The film is a meditation on despair, generosity and the power of the spirit to challenge the forces of darkness – and a tale of youth and age meeting on a strange battlefield.


Samantha Lang

British-born and raised, Lang has made her adopted homeland her base. Settling with her family in Sydney, she had an eclectic education, spending time in France, Germany and Czechoslovakia before earning her degree in film at Sydney's prestigious Australian Film, Television and Radio School. Lang earned attention for her short films, including "God's Bones" (1993) and "Audacious" (1995). Shortly after graduation, she caught the attention of producer-actor Bryan Brown, who tapped her to helm an episode of the Australian TV series "Twisted Tales". Lang continued her ascent (although on the first day of shooting, many crew members mistook her for either a costume mistress or a runner) with her first feature, "The Well" (1997). Adapted by Laura Jones from an Elizabeth Jolley story, the film depicted the growing love relationship between two diverse woman, a city girl and older spinster, in a rural community. Lang's second feature was "The Monkey's Mask" (2000), about a lesbian private investigator hired to find a murderer terrorizing a college campus.

  Also starring

James Hong
as Zao

James Hong was born in Minneapolis, MN, USA. He studied civil engineering at the University of Minnesota, but at some point along the way became interested in acting. He graduated from USC and practiced for 1? years as a road engineer with the County of Los Angeles. He took sick leaves and vacation time to do films. He finally quit engineering to focus on acting full time. He is one of the founders of the East-West Players, the oldest Asian American theater in Los Angeles. He served as president and charter member of the Association of Asian Pacific American Artists. He current lives in Los Angeles and is planning to produce and direct his own films.


Leelee: "It's an intimate film, which already isn't a big blockbuster film. So I think that the people who would see an intimate small film would watch a film with subtitles anyway. Like A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries or My First Mister or L'Idol would all probably be a similar audience."

"I play an actress. That was very, very strange. It really was actually. I felt like a schizophrenic. I play a young Australian girl living in Paris and she is the understudy in a play. I'm having an affair with the lead actor of the play. The person I'm the understudy for is married to the lead actor. I don't like her. Her name is Sylvie Martin and my character is obsessed with this. And she's living in this apartment. There's this old Chinese man who's like 74 who's her next door neighbour and they kind of become best friends. It's about all the different characters that live in the building, whether it's the train conductor downstairs or the little girl with her dog. It's very intimate and all kind of situational and mental and it's kind of dramatic and funny too. And my character just has no base. You never know when she's acting and when she's being real. Because of that you're left kind of guessing as you watch her. Is that really something she's feeling? Is she playing a game with him? Or is she playing a game with herself? You never really know and it's really interesting."

"There is a whole European market. I think it used to be so much American market. Now I think it's like 60 percent in Europe and 40 percent in the States. That's half of my culture too. The U.S. is the United States. And it is this big block that everything is kind of directed towards in more ways than one now. But Europe is just as important."