Lola Montès is a visually ravishing, narratively daring dramatization of the life of the notorious courtesan and showgirl, played by Martine Carol. With his customary cinematographic flourish and, for the first time, vibrant color, Max Ophuls charts Montès’s scandalous past through the bombastic ringmaster (Peter Ustinov) of the American circus where she ends up performing. Ophuls’s final film, Lola Montès is at once a magnificent romantic melodrama, a meditation on the lurid fascination with celebrity, and a meticulous, one-of-a-kind movie spectacle. —The Criterion Collection
Max Ophüls (born Maximillian Oppenheimer, 6 May 1902, Saarbrücken, Germany – 25 March 1957, Hamburg, Germany) was an influential German-born film director who worked in Germany, the United States and France. He made nearly thirty films.
He started his career as a stage actor in 1919 but moved into theatre production in 1924. Two years later, he became creative director of the Burgtheater in Vienna and, having had 200 plays to his credit, turned to film production in 1929, when he became a dialogue director under Anatole Litvak at UFA in Berlin. He worked throughout Germany and directed his first film in 1931, the comedy short Dann schon lieber Lebertran (literally In This Case, Rather Cod-Liver Oil).
Of his early films, the most acclaimed is Liebelei (1933), which included a number of the characteristic elements for which he was to become known: luxurious sets, a feminist attitude, and a duel between a younger and older man.
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The last film of Ophüls was, reluctantly, the only one he shot in colour and widescreen. It's a spectacular artificial extravaganza told with unmatched cinematic flair in which the story of Lola unfolds from the confines of a circus. In flashback we follow her progress through life, her many ups and downs, all captured by the director's mobile camera which scales the elaborate decor. A ravishing feast for the eyes..
Maybe I am not a fan of melodrama, but this film, as visually stunning as it is in set design and cinematography, is actually pretty dull and boring story-wise. It is a multi-layered retrospective confession narrative focused on the many loves Lola Montes has had over history, some of them noteworthy and powerful. The circus scenes were the most interesting, but apart from the designs of the flashbacks, lackluster.
A look at some of the best original French posters for the films in Film Forum’s current series: The French Old Wave.
Over at Shadowplay, I'm hosting a little blogathon on "late films," but it was coincidence that found me screening a fan-subtitled, from