A gorgeous mise en scene and heady colour palette are the chief delights - if not raison d’etre - for viewing this otherwise stiff narrative cadaver which offers little tangible insight into the motivations or mores of Montes. The episodic structure doesn’t help and one leaves the film elated by it’s exquisite art direction but little else, although the freak show exploitation is rather chilling.
Seen on 35mm, with Marcel Ophuls present. This may be Max Ophuls at his most abstract, which is still endlessly inviting: it begins on startling surreal harshness, moves through melancholy and joy, and ends on a note sadder than if it took the more melodramatic way out. Along the way, it writes (in calligraphy) an eloquent version of female notoriety that everyone from Ingrid Bergman to Miley Cyrus could relate to.
I used to dislike Ophuls cinematic style because of Letter From an Unknown Woman and La Ronde, i find them too melancholic and uninteresting plot-wise, but this film.. everything are just perfectly placed, it has Mannerist composition quality, every movement are articulately calculated. The Brechtian distancing used very effectively on Lola. the criticism of aristocracy, both in social and cinema are hilarious.
Upon a second viewing, this film left me tremendously cold and empty compared to "La Ronde", "The Earrings of Madame De..." and "Letter from an Unknown Woman". It lacked their beautiful mix of sadness and joy. Maybe I'm missing something, but I plan on watching it again for a third time and to give the commentary a good listen to. I love Ophuls and felt awful that I didn't like this film as much as I wanted to.
Although I've always been mystified as to many critics' claims to this film's greatness, this has one of the great endings in cinema. Selling her hands for kisses through bars in a cage. It's worth stumping up to get the Criterion Blu-ray of this one if you're a fan.
3.5, the ambition is just to take his marvelous command over the craft and deploy it like sandpaper to wood. Montes is not only more passive than I imagined, but also with less interiority, a decision which serves to buttress the high level of aesthetic pretension while making it all feel a little disingenuous. The clown/manager actor gives so much to his role, you realize what you're missing. Brilliance, at a cost.
Cette somptueuse représentation nous montre, entre autres, sa relation amoureuse avec Liszt, son aventure avec un prestigieux chef d'orchestre transalpin, sa liaison avec le roi Louis 1er de Bavière, son mariage manqué avec un ancien soupirant de sa mère... www.cinefiches.com