Monday, November 19, 2007

Lola Montes (Max Ophüls, 1955)

***½
France/West Germany




Andrew Sarris once pronounced this the greatest film ever made. It's an odd assertion and a tricky one to back up. It would have been fascinating to see him try.

Max Ophüls' final film, this opulent, expensive melodrama charts the scandals, affairs and gradual destitution of an exotic dancer and courtesan who in real life bedded Liszt, Ludwig I of Bavaria and hundreds of influential men around the globe. The film boasts vast, gaudy, meticulous sets, grand personages, grander statements and Ophüls' signature sweeping, gliding camerawork. But it's undone by a blank-faced vacuum at its centre.

You can sense Martine Carol's hunger for fame, to be admired and thought beautiful. And it's not a giant leap for the imagination to conceive her sleeping her way to the top (how else could she have gotten this role?). But she doesn't show any special kind of spark that would make you understand why a king would stay til morning.

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