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Just couldn’t get through this one on the first go. I actually found myself watching it with the commentary on the first viewing, because, I couldn’t take my eyes off of it, but I really did not care what was going on in the film.
The camera work inspires awe-its the peak of the profession.
The acting is fine all around.
The colors are so juicy that you want to bite into them.
But the movie just failed to grab me.
Anyone else have a take on Lola Montes, or did you have any other films that you might fell a similar way about?
Gus Van Sant’s Gerry and most of the work of Soderberg is very well done but cinematically dead for me, a chore to get through
Have you ever seen “The Fall of the Roman Empire”
Its one of those old epics, everybody was in it, but man it has horrid pacing. That was a bad movie.
Lola Montes was good, but paced a bit like one of Visconti’s later films.
I thought the POV falling shot at the end was pretty awesome.
Yes – - definitely agree. I saw it in theaters when it was rereleased, maybe 6-ish years ago, and again two weeks ago. Same reaction as last time – I regard it as a rather ponderous film. And I like Ophuls very, very much. There are a few moments where the quality of cinema you’re seeing feels unprecedented – particularly two scenes which showcase Lola’s bravura: when she stops a dance routine to humiliate her lover, the conductor, and when she rides horseback and upsets a procession to make an impression on the King of Bavaria.
Here’s what Pauline Kael had to say about Lola Montes:
“…But even in restored form, it’s disappointing – poorly acted and too shallow for its melancholy tone and its rich decor and elaborate sturcture. Lola (Martine Carol), far past her prime, is seen being exhibited and humiliated in a circus in New Orleans; the ringmaster – Peter Ustinov – tells the audience that it will see Lola’s life story, and her early conquests and adventures are shown in flashbacks. Regrettably, Martine Carol couldn’t manage to look young enough for Lola’s radiant early days, and she was too bad a dancer to even play a bad dancer – she was a non-dancer. There is nothing unusual about her Lola – nothing that would explain why men are going mad over her. The center of the movie seems to be missing, and this isn’t just the fault of the actress. The swirling, rococo camera movement at the circus is surprisingly elegant (though presumably the circus is meant to be tawdry). The movement suggests that this rather dumpy little woman has had an extraordinary emotional life, yet nothing seems to happen in those flashbacks – which don’t gain in depth from our knowing what Lola has come down to. And she loiters for so long with the king in Bavaria that one wants to give her carriage a push. What makes this folly so poignant and so painful to watch is that its virtuoso director didn’t allow himself any middle ground: the film had to be his greatest masterpiece to be any good at all. According to his script girl, he died knowing he had failed. (The film was also one of the worst box-office disasters of its era.)”
“Lola Montes” is, in my unhumble opinion, the greatest film of all time, and I am willing to stake my critical reputation, such as it is, on this one proposition above all others." – Andrew Sarris
so continues the critical battle between Sarris and Kael, although I tend to agree more with Sarris on this. Kael’s complaint about the acting is not relevant because everything – the sets and characters are intended to feel artificial. The accusation of shallowness also fails because the film is not interested in psychology of its characters, the psychological aspect is intentionally opaque. Maritine Carol is a bad dancer in the film because her character is meant to be a bad dancer.
This is one of the things that annoys me and something I’ve expressed elsewhere: film does not need to be EXCITING in order for it to be compelling. Behold…
“Save The Tiger” with Jack Lemmon (directed by John G. Avildsen) is a compelling film. It has excellent visual (and aural!) symbolism, a powerful and convincing central performance by Jack, it’s thoughtful, written well, a product of its cynical time and place (immediately post-Watergate America), but also strangely timeless and boundless (the death of dreams and innocence, the loss of youth).
However, I don’t think it’s in any danger of being called exciting.
Those are awfully bold words by Sarris. I’d love to know if he would revise his statement today.
I’m looking forward to seeing the film. My friend has the blu-ray just waiting to be projected in his home theater.
“The accusation of shallowness also fails because the film is not interested in psychology of its characters, the psychological aspect is intentionally opaque. Maritine Carol is a bad dancer in the film because her character is meant to be a bad dancer.”
That^ was spot on. Celebrity is shallow – the price one pays is deep.
Exciting? No. Melancholy? Yes.
Brilliant film – agree with Sarris.
It’s beautiful of course but i don’t find it as exquisitely compelling as a narrative as either Madame de or Letter from an Unknown Woman (where the lead parts are played more convincingly); Lola Montez in real life was an exciting and sometimes scandalous attraction, famed as a dancer (even if maybe little more talented than Carol’s performance?). The film doesn’t adequately capture that aspect, it could do with more vivacious erotic sashaying maybe, even while critiquing shallowness, and as a bio it doesn’t really take us to the heart of a real person, beyond its trappings and tragic melancholy, but with its other qualities i’m still a bit closer to Sarris than Kael.
A feature film scheduled for 2010 entitled “Spider Dance” will focus on the latter years of Lola’s life and her time in Australia.
Musician Joanna Newsom’s song and title track “Have One on Me” is about Lola Montez.
“Here’s Lola—ta da!—to do her famous Spider Dance for you”
The film makes the viewer feel something for her, regardless of the shallow celebrity life, by revealing her bravery and dignity.
I almost wept at the end of this film
Criterion said this: flamboyant yet meticulous film that rewards the spectator’s age and experience
Yes i agree we feel for her, and the elegant presentation does add dignity, but maybe she could have done with more vivacity along the way?
And maybe a little more weathered by experience?
this face does have a melancholic wistful dignity too
a younger optimistic version:
That would have perhaps made her life glib.
I think her life was sad and full of justifications.
Did you think she really loved the king?
Kael: There is nothing unusual about her Lola – nothing that would explain why men are going mad over her. The center of the movie seems to be missing, and this isn’t just the fault of the actress. The swirling, rococo camera movement at the circus is surprisingly elegant (though presumably the circus is meant to be tawdry). The movement suggests that this rather dumpy little woman has had an extraordinary emotional life, yet nothing seems to happen in those flashbacks – which don’t gain in depth from our knowing what Lola has come down to. And she loiters for so long with the king in Bavaria that one wants to give her carriage a push.
There is nothing unusual about Lola – she is universally human – trying to make the best of society’s expectations. We loitered there in Bavaria for a reason – it was the only real moments of rest for her in the shallow glitz of her life. A time when she could have expectations and find peace from the expectations of others.
This is one of those films that gets better the more I think about it – the film rewards the spectator’s age and experience.
I agree the length of our stay with her in Bavaria is justified, it’s a crucial time, and the result the more tragic- yes i did think her feelings for the king were genuine, not shallow or self-centred. I’’ll have to dust off the old video!
Well, i asked the question because i am not sure – some women are incapable of love. I honestly don’t know if the answer is in the film. A clue is the attack on the castle – the people have expectations – she knows that and she wants the king to resist.
Wow ! the before and after images do tell a story. Perhaps Ophuls got it right, Kael certainly didn’t…..
“Lola Montes” is not about a woman named Lola Montes — a courtesan who in retirement sold patent medicine and lecutured on beauty and such — but the world that surrounded her. IOW, The Media. Ophuls said he was inspired to make the film not by Lola herself but by then-recent tabloid accounts of Judy Garland, Edith Piaf and Zsa Zsa Gabor
but the world that surrpounded
The world surrounded her and then pounded her.
In 55 we had another sad film on the subject of a real-life historical courtesan loved by a ruler whose position is put at risk, by the other great master of exquisitely poignant female tragedies and smooth elegant camerawork, Mizoguchi. Yang Kwei Fei, re the tragic consort of 8th century Tang Emperor Xuanzong, is a relative disappointment for me, weaker than the Ophuls’ film, cos although the subject may have seemed to suit Mizo, in fact he wasn’t so enamoured and it feels a bit twee and precious. I had really looked forward to it, as an admirer of Po Chu-i’s famous ancient poem on the subject, The Song of Everlasting Grief, quoted in Sei Shonagon’s Pillow Book:
“Her face, delicate as jade, is desolate beneath the heavy tears,
Like a spray of pear blossom in spring, veiled in drops of rain”
But the decor and visual beauty are stronger than the emotions engendered, whereas at his best Mizo brings the different aspects together. It feels more melancholic than passionate.
If a film is intentionally shallow, then how can one blame another for not liking the film?
Same can be said for Transformers or some other popcorn action film – their intentions are to be mindless money makers and they succeed with audiences and fail with critics.
There is a lot of artistic merit to Lola Montes, but the story is not. To say, “Well, only people who are older and have more experience can understand the film” is such a cop out. I’m with Kael on this.
No it is not a cop out – it is confirmed.
“Same can be said for Transformers or some other popcorn action film – their intentions are to be mindless money makers and they succeed with audiences and fail with critics.”
Succeeding at doing something terrible should not be celebrated.
“Lola” plays both ways to me, and I take a little from both Sarris and Kael.
Carol is inert in the center of the film, yes. It is a pity and an irony at the same time, as the film is both highlighting this as a comment on the story and showcasing Martine Carol’s shortcomings as an actress. Two-thirds of this element adds to the film, intentionally or not; one third detracts for me.
Visually, and in terms of its tone, it succeeds a lot of the time.
It is one of the most ravishingly overripe color films I have seen, with big thanks to DP Christian Matras who also shot “The Earrings of Madame de…” for Ophuls.
No one could have done the Circus announcer like Ustinov.
Ophuls mastered the sharp observer’s eye, tempered with affection.
The film is very moving in its totality, even as there are elements that, at least to me, rub uneasily. It may simply be a matter of a work that demands those several more viewings to lay itself clear.
There is nothing unusual about her Lola – nothing that would explain why men are going mad over her. The center of the movie seems to be missing, and this isn’t just the fault of the actress. The swirling, rococo camera movement at the circus is surprisingly elegant (though presumably the circus is meant to be tawdry). The movement suggests that this rather dumpy little woman has had an extraordinary emotional life, yet nothing seems to happen in those flashbacks
We aren’t meant to see that part of a life – we are meant to see the downside – to see that she wasn’t so special after all – that makes her accessible to us b/c he is just like us but with the baggage of fame.
This film is different from the standard rags-to-riches-to-rags film.
Kael was way-off on this one.
Yup, Kael missed the boat here. The movie is a studied contrast between interior and exterior worlds. The films style provides the counterpoint to the emotional arc of the flashbacks. The characters with the greatest outward trappings seek what we would consider to be banal but they find impossible to achieve, while the more common crowd seeks the opposite, fame and its associated “rewards”. The style of the film is the substance and not just there for the pretty.
I love Pauline Kael. But I am with (or at least close to) Sarris on this one.
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