June 28, 1999 12:00 PM

Franka Potente, Moritz Bleibtreu

Clocking in at 81 minutes and shot in a kaleidoscope of ultrahip styles, this furiously paced German import leaves an audience spent—but gratefully so. Viewers get the movie equivalent of a runner’s high.

Weeping with anguish, Lola’s boyfriend (Bleibtreu) calls her from a pay phone. He has lost the money he collected from a drug deal and now has just 20 minutes to come up with the sum (about $53,700) before meeting Mr. Big. Lola (Potente, whose reddish punk hair sparked a fashion trend in Germany) runs through Berlin’s streets to try to borrow the cash from her banker father and meet her lover by high noon.

The movie plays out this scenario, with increasingly fantastical variations, three times. Each time, we also see snapshot images showing the futures of passersby who watch (and occasionally collide with) the sprinting Lola. Their chaotic destinies, like hers, take three unpredictable shifts. But as Lola repeatedly encounters death, the movie is moored by a central, inarguable point: Every race comes to a stop, and time itself must have an end. Beyond its dazzling surface and breathless speed, Lola is very serious. It stays with you. (R)

Bottom Line: Sleek and speedy

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