There is no greater challenge for an actress than playing a man who has become a woman. However, Fanny Ardant, François Truffaut’s muse, didn’t back out: Nadir Moknèche’s Lola Pater, starring Ardant and Tewfik Jallab, is premiering today in Locarno Piazza Grande. The title already contains the main information about the story: on the one hand, there’s a father who wants to see his son again many years after he abandoned the child; on the other hand there’s Lola, the beautiful woman this father, once called Farid, has now become. The sudden death of his former wife is the chance for him to find his old life again. Although he tried hard to forget it all, destiny brings it back as an unsettled debt. Lola leaves the daily life she’s been fighting so hard for (she teaches belly dancing classes and lives with her long-time partner) and, all alone, she embarks on a difficult journey through her painful past. It’ll be the chance for a deeper understanding of herself, and for recovering the relationship with her son, Zino. Her incredible willpower eventually wins over Zino’s doubts.

Lola is at the heart of the film and her energy affects all the other characters. The camera seems to breathe with her, ready to catch every single expression on her face, every small or quick change. Fanny Ardant embodies such a rich and contradictory character. Her performance is of the highest level: she does not only prove to be an extraordinary actress, but also to have loved and known deeply her Lola. As she puts it, in Italian: “I adored this character. She’s a blend of vulnerability and fantasy, passion and energy. She won me over since the very first pages of the script. Working on Lola-Farid allowed me to explore the difference between the emotion of motherhood and that of fatherhood, and eventually brought me to face this issue in all its complexity.”

Ardant’s work on her character is all based on her physicality: the creation of a male body that turns into a woman within a real female physique. The actress is not afraid of this metamorphosis and she abandons herself in front of the camera, that underlines her masculine details: the low voice, her big hands and feet, the proud attitude, her slim but statuesque figure.

It’s just thinking about her silhouette that Nadir Moknèche chose Fanny Ardant for the role: “I remember her profile, wrapped in a raincoat in Truffaut’s Vivement dimanche! I love that ambiguous image. But the thing I love the most about her is her resemblance, in terms of energy and passion, to Italian actresses – I love Italian actresses! – so when I had the chance to discuss the script with my mother she suggested without hesitation: Fanny Ardant. I thought it was a sign, and I wasn’t wrong.”

Regarding the origins of Lola Pater, the director confesses that the story is partly autobiographical: “I lost my father when I was 3 and I’ve always said that I’d rather have an alive transgender father by my side than a dead one.” Moreover, the casual encounter with two transgenders was an additional inspiration for the story: “Back in 1987, I was a student living in Pigalle, Paris. Two transgenders were living in my building. I didn’t know much about them, but it was clear that they were ‘going out onto the streets’. One day, one of them asked me if he could come and watch the TV at mine. They were airing a very famous process, that against Klaus Barbie, a Gestapo commander in Lion during the Nazi occupation. I was surprised by that request, but eventually we became friends. I am very thankful for that encounter, because it made me understand better a whole world that, especially in the movies, is often described in grotesque tones.” A controversial theme, an intimate story and an extraordinary actress: this is Lola Pater.