• Unrated, 1 hr. 55 min.
  • Drama
  • Directed By:
    Max Ophüls
    In Theaters:
    Dec 23, 1955 Wide
    On DVD:
    Feb 23, 1999
  • Rialto Pictures

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Lola Montès (The Fall of Lola Montes) (The Sins of Lola Montes) Reviews

Page 1 of 6
Bob S

Super Reviewer

April 3, 2007
Well, I love Ophuls but the Fox Lorber DVD sucks - maybe Criterion will release this by which time I will have done my due diligence and upgraded my crap 27" screen.

Although it had moments of brilliance -, for the most part I found this flick very stilted and lacking the usual Ophuls' grace and charm. Some high hopes dashed.

Update 2009 - OK I saw the latest restoration on a big screen - and the net gain is one half a star. There is no getting around the fact that this was a troubled, compromised production as well as Ophuls' first foray into color and Cinemascope. Among many flaws - I found the image distortion of the wide-screen format and Ophuls' ever moving camera to be highly imcompatible.

That being said - the circus scenes and Peter Ustinov's performance are wonderful.
Carlos M

Super Reviewer

October 19, 2012
The recently restored version as originally intended by Ophüls is a sumptuous chef-d'oeuvre. The production design, costumes, the fluid camerawork, the wonderful script, everything is remarkable from the first shot to the last, a great pleasure for the eyes and the heart.
Eric B

Super Reviewer

February 24, 2010
Too much old-fashioned romance for my tastes, but the sets and use of color are gorgeous. The film's most interesting aspect is not its unremarkable tale of a seductive, Evita Peron-like character who became a notorious scandal in Europe, but the plot's added framework: the presentation of Lola's exploits as an impossibly ornate circus show, with Peter Ustinov as the grandiloquent ringmaster. Watching Lola negotiate her way through the various shifting tableaux is what's truly dazzling.

Otherwise, "Lola Montes" concentrates on frame composition and lavish sets almost to a fault. There are very few tight shots of the characters, and thus an emotional intimacy is missing. We don't connect with the players. It doesn't help that Martine Carol isn't much of an actress.
Harlequin68
Harlequin68

Super Reviewer

February 18, 2010
Little thought is usually given to a movie's framing device, as it is normally just a jumping off place to tell the story.("The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" being a particular exception to this rule.) What the mesmerizing "Lola Montes" does is reverse that by staging most of its action in its lavishly decorated present while skipping around in the past. This is still not as unusual as Peter Ustinov speaking French.

Trapped in the present as the main attraction in a circus, Lola Montes(Martine Carol) spends each night reliving the events of her scandalous life, starting with her mother(Lise Delamare) abandoning her after the death of her father, a British colonial officer. Lola ends up making her way from one end of Europe to the other, as an actress and dancer. In the meantime, she romances some of the most renowned men of her time including Franz Liszt(Will Quadflieg).

I thought at first the circus might be in hell but it turns out only in a figurative, not a literal sense, as she answers questions from the paying customers while trying to maintain her dignity. While questioning who is the real freak, the movie says quite a lot about those of us sitting in the peanut gallery who live our lives vicariously through somebody like Lola who lived life to the fullest and had lots of fun. That's not to mention that the sex was probably pretty good, too. While in the present, Lola might not be on top anymore, at least the film's director Max Ophuls went out on top with "Lola Montes," his exemplary final film.
Cameron W. Johnson
Cameron W. Johnson

Super Reviewer

July 17, 2013
"Eh bien, je ne suis pas homme le plus physique du monde, mais quand elle serra serré elle m'a presque cassé la colonne vertébrale, oh, mon Lola, Lo-Lo-Lo-Lo-Lola!" I already used that joke for my opener of my review for "Lolita", and I used Google Translate for this latest reference to the Kinks' "Lola", so by changing the transvestite's name to Lolita when I reviewed "Lolita", I was probably more accurate to the lyrics, but whatever. You Francophiles can get annoyed with me all you want for letting my laziness overcome my own affection for the French language, but laziness is fitting in a discussion regarding this film, as this effort puts little effort into doing anything unique as a "loose" interpretation of the life and times of Lola Montez. Sure, this film is about some French chick, whereas Montez was an Irish woman who was known as a "Spanish" dancer and ended up dying in New York (Ironic, because New York is usually where the Irish go to "not" die), but the Irish's English is about as hard to understand as the French's French, so, yeah, I'm not really seeing a line between fact and fiction here, Herr Max Ophüls. Well, I doubt that this film has any pretense about being a biopic for Lola Montez in disguise, as the titular main character's name is [u]Lola Montè[/u]s, for goodness' sake, but the fact of the matter is that I don't really understand why Max Ophüls went through the trouble of "tap dancing" (It's funny because this film is about a dancer) around just telling us who this film is actually about, unless, of course, the other people behind this project didn't want to run the risk of legal issues, which I know sounds stupid, but kind of makes sense when you think about it, for although this film came out after any kind of copyright that would, for whatever reason, be associated with Montez's estate had expired, as the producer's cut of this film apparently told us, the people who called the shots behind this project other than Ophüls had a tendency to make mighty dumb decisions. ...No, the scenario is still stupid, but what I'm getting at is that when Sergio Leone made it the portion of Heaven that is reserved for legendary filmmakers who had their last film butchered by producers, I bet Ophüls walked up to him, handed him a smoke and said, "Well, my friend, it would appear as though the Germans and Italians have a mutual foe yet again." Now, I'm not saying the restored cut of this film that everyone knows and loves is quite as good as "Once Upon a Time in America", but hey, it's still a decent film, though it's not like the producers were the only one who made a mistake with the handling of Ophüls' vision.

Framing the flashback sequences which stand as the body of this narrative with a circus show that presents the story of the titular Lola Montès character as an act, so much so that we often step back to see an event which is being focused upon on a stage at the center of the show, this film boasts a stylistic choice to storytelling that is nothing if not unique and very often livens things up, yet there are still plenty of questionable areas within this stylistic choice, as it distances resonance by presenting a should-be subjective narrative as objective, and makes matters all the worse by being unevenly used, thus leaving storytelling style to feel inconsistent at times. The circus-themed frame story element to this nonlinear character study ultimately graces the film with a colorful stamp that I can't see the final product being the same without, but you've got to take the problems with the strengths, and make no mistake, this major stylistic choice in storytelling proves to be distancing and often inconsistent in its usage, and also has a tendency to sum up potentially exposition-feeding pieces of filler in Montès' story, thus thinning out expository depth that isn't as rich as it probably should be when we switch back to a more traditional and subjective narrative style. As much as this film takes its share of breaks to tell you what's going on, plenty feels kind of undercooked in this character study, yet underdevelopment is perhaps not a disengaging as the slowness, which is very much toned down by a certain consistent liveliness within Max Ophüls' direction that often really springs as entertaining, but still stands, and often as completely undeniable, drying up atmospheric kick enough to dull things down a bit and leave the film to limp out. Storytelling meanders at times, as surely as it takes on the occasional questionable stylistic choice, and yet, with all of my aimless complaining about the slightly underused and generally colorful, circus-themed frame story element and slow spells, there really aren't a whole lot of errors to the final product, but hiccups there are really call your attention to how this film can't afford to make too many mistakes if it aims to truly reward. There's certainly juiciness to this story, but not as much as you might think, or at least hope for, carrying only so much momentum before it begins to get kind repetitious in concept, alone, so when I say that there are not a whole lot of flaws in this film, I mean that there was never to be a whole lot of anything to this film. Needless to say, there's enough meat to this story concept for you to see some clear signs at potential for a rewarding drama, but in the end, this film isn't as rewarding as it perhaps could have been, being a bit too inconsistent and slow for you to ignore the natural shortcomings that end up doing about as much as anything in making an underwhelming effort. Still, while the film is far from outstanding, it impresses enough to entertain adequately and consistently dazzle, maybe even turn in a few decent tunes.

Georges Auric's musical efforts aren't too frequently played upon, and quite frankly, uniqueness to this film's score is substantially less recurring, but it's not like Auric doesn't still turn in a decent score that has enough tasteful color in it to entertaining and often liven things up, even if it's not quite as unique, or as impressive, as the film's outstanding art direction, which backs production designs by Jean d'Eaubonne and costume designs by Georges Annenkov that are so remarkably intricate in their capturing this 19th-century-set world with an intense attention to lavish liveliness that production value ends up being both immersive and dazzling. As far as art direction is concerned, this film almost has to be seen in order to be believed, for although the era this film falls into offers certain limitations to production value's dazzle, the designers of the look of this film make one stunning decision after another, yet not at the expense of enough down-to-earth intricacy to draw you into this dazzling world on a subjective level. Of course, it should go without saying that this film's production value wouldn't be as eye-catching as it most certainly is in the long run if it wasn't for its being gorgeously presented by another truly remarkable artistic attribute: Christian Matras' cinematography, which plays with Cinemascope filming sensibilities to seamlessly marry sweep and intimacy to the scope of this well-produced drama, while playing up vibrant color in a sensationally exuberant that was very much unique at the time, and is still, to this day, breathtaking, bouncing out well-defined color in most-every shot stunningly. The film looks incredible, and not just for its time, thanks to plenty of production value-driven and photographically enhanced eye candy that some films nowadays have trouble challenging, so on a stylistic level, this film is memorable, rewarding, maybe even near-phenomenal, and that does a lot to make the film worth seeing, yet you cannot disregard the engaging color that resides "within" those before the well-lensed camera. There's never anything all that impressive about the acting in this film, but the characters conceptually do a lot to drive the final product's substance, thus there has to be some inspiration the performances, which deliver on just that, with most every member of this colorful cast delivering on charisma and chemistry that go into defining the charming human depths that in turn go into defining this character piece. Of course, the performances wouldn't be quite as charming as they ultimately are if the performers weren't backing up engaging material, which means that Annette Wademant turns in a script that, while uneven and repetitious at times, boasts a fair bit of wit, while director Max Ophüls keeps momentum alive enough to have an engagingingly entertaining beat for every slow spell. Seeing as how there's only so much to this film's substance in concept, acting, writing and direction never delivery a whole lot, but through all of the challenges to your investment, there are enough engaging areas to storytelling to keep you going through and through, even if you do end up wishing that you had more to walk away with.

When the circus has left town, somewhat stylistically uneven storytelling, expository shortcomings and bland spells allow you to meditate upon the natural shortcomings that shake your engagement value, better never so loose that the lovely score work, remarkable production value and incredible cinematography that make up sharp style, as well as the charming performances, witty writing and generally colorful direction that make up entertaining substance, aren't able to keep you locked with "Lola Montès" enough to enjoy yourself just fine through all of the underwhelmingness.

2.5/5 - Fair
John B

Super Reviewer

January 12, 2012
The director's cut of Ophuls' final film is fascinating and ground breaking for its time. The idea of a retrospect of life put on by a local circus is great. Powerful acting and a memorable tale.
Chris B

Super Reviewer

August 17, 2011
With the 2008 restoration that made the film the closest to Ophul's original concept and vision, Lola Montes is mesmerizing! Shot in beautiful Technicolor and showcasing the wonderful settings and beautiful locations Lola Montes looks just as amazing as Martine Carol does portraying her. Max Ophuls' last film and the only one in color, he uses the technicolor to great advantage and adds even more depth to his striking compositions. Deep, complex and with extreme emotion and drama throughout there is no way to take your eyes off the screen. Recommended.
shannylee38
shannylee38

Super Reviewer

February 28, 2007
Very interesting camera work! I think Baz Luhrman was inspired with this film to make Moulin Rouge. If not, it strangely looks the same.
October 22, 2010
Deemed too much for French audiences, who apparently had standards at some point, surprisingly. Of course, this movie is tame, but then again today media portrayal of women as filthy whores is typical and no longer shocking, I guess.

Even then, the accuracy of the flashbacks is questionable, ain't it? The circus leader himself said they would create scandal if necessary. Much intrigue.
February 3, 2010
Vibrant and uniquely woven story about the life of a fallen woman...said to be one of the most scandalous films in French history.
October 30, 2008
I'm so glad to have seen this on the big screen. It is the very definition of lush - everything just looks so gorgeous, and the vivid colors and the opulence and the spectacle are simply intoxicating. This visual beauty, as well as the fascinating framing device of the circus reenactment, draws us in seductively. It starts to drag somewhat toward the end, and there is quite a bit of melodrama, but maybe that's the point: what, in the grand scheme of things, is all this - empty pursuit of social climbing, hollow pleasures - is it all just folly, cheap showmen's fodder after which kisses of this beautiful woman can be bought for a dollar? And still the spectacle in all its CinemaScope glory bowls us over. Now that there's a newly restored print, hopefully this movie can be more widely seen as it was originally intended.
October 25, 2008
My first experience with Ophüls convinces me that he is a master of the long fluid take aesthetic as much as Sternberg and Mizoguchi. The film travels back and forth between Lola's memories of episodes of her past life and her present as a gaudy circus show attraction which ironically is a caricaturisation of her life and quite a fitting metaphorical, self-reflexive depiction of her rise and fall, as well as serving to call into question the truthfulness of Lola's portrayal of herself. The dual narratives allows Ophuls to compress what could easily been a 3 hour epic into under 2 hours while satirizing celebrity culture (Andrew Sarris calls Sarah Palin the new Lola) as Lola's sexual conquests are exploited mercilessly by the circus. In a way this film is a bit overwhelming to digest, as the dense compositions and gorgeous camera movements are hard to be savored in such a fast paced film.
Chris B

Super Reviewer

August 17, 2011
With the 2008 restoration that made the film the closest to Ophul's original concept and vision, Lola Montes is mesmerizing! Shot in beautiful Technicolor and showcasing the wonderful settings and beautiful locations Lola Montes looks just as amazing as Martine Carol does portraying her. Max Ophuls' last film and the only one in color, he uses the technicolor to great advantage and adds even more depth to his striking compositions. Deep, complex and with extreme emotion and drama throughout there is no way to take your eyes off the screen. Recommended.
Cameron W. Johnson
Cameron W. Johnson

Super Reviewer

July 17, 2013
"Eh bien, je ne suis pas homme le plus physique du monde, mais quand elle serra serré elle m'a presque cassé la colonne vertébrale, oh, mon Lola, Lo-Lo-Lo-Lo-Lola!" I already used that joke for my opener of my review for "Lolita", and I used Google Translate for this latest reference to the Kinks' "Lola", so by changing the transvestite's name to Lolita when I reviewed "Lolita", I was probably more accurate to the lyrics, but whatever. You Francophiles can get annoyed with me all you want for letting my laziness overcome my own affection for the French language, but laziness is fitting in a discussion regarding this film, as this effort puts little effort into doing anything unique as a "loose" interpretation of the life and times of Lola Montez. Sure, this film is about some French chick, whereas Montez was an Irish woman who was known as a "Spanish" dancer and ended up dying in New York (Ironic, because New York is usually where the Irish go to "not" die), but the Irish's English is about as hard to understand as the French's French, so, yeah, I'm not really seeing a line between fact and fiction here, Herr Max Ophüls. Well, I doubt that this film has any pretense about being a biopic for Lola Montez in disguise, as the titular main character's name is [u]Lola Montè[/u]s, for goodness' sake, but the fact of the matter is that I don't really understand why Max Ophüls went through the trouble of "tap dancing" (It's funny because this film is about a dancer) around just telling us who this film is actually about, unless, of course, the other people behind this project didn't want to run the risk of legal issues, which I know sounds stupid, but kind of makes sense when you think about it, for although this film came out after any kind of copyright that would, for whatever reason, be associated with Montez's estate had expired, as the producer's cut of this film apparently told us, the people who called the shots behind this project other than Ophüls had a tendency to make mighty dumb decisions. ...No, the scenario is still stupid, but what I'm getting at is that when Sergio Leone made it the portion of Heaven that is reserved for legendary filmmakers who had their last film butchered by producers, I bet Ophüls walked up to him, handed him a smoke and said, "Well, my friend, it would appear as though the Germans and Italians have a mutual foe yet again." Now, I'm not saying the restored cut of this film that everyone knows and loves is quite as good as "Once Upon a Time in America", but hey, it's still a decent film, though it's not like the producers were the only one who made a mistake with the handling of Ophüls' vision.

Framing the flashback sequences which stand as the body of this narrative with a circus show that presents the story of the titular Lola Montès character as an act, so much so that we often step back to see an event which is being focused upon on a stage at the center of the show, this film boasts a stylistic choice to storytelling that is nothing if not unique and very often livens things up, yet there are still plenty of questionable areas within this stylistic choice, as it distances resonance by presenting a should-be subjective narrative as objective, and makes matters all the worse by being unevenly used, thus leaving storytelling style to feel inconsistent at times. The circus-themed frame story element to this nonlinear character study ultimately graces the film with a colorful stamp that I can't see the final product being the same without, but you've got to take the problems with the strengths, and make no mistake, this major stylistic choice in storytelling proves to be distancing and often inconsistent in its usage, and also has a tendency to sum up potentially exposition-feeding pieces of filler in Montès' story, thus thinning out expository depth that isn't as rich as it probably should be when we switch back to a more traditional and subjective narrative style. As much as this film takes its share of breaks to tell you what's going on, plenty feels kind of undercooked in this character study, yet underdevelopment is perhaps not a disengaging as the slowness, which is very much toned down by a certain consistent liveliness within Max Ophüls' direction that often really springs as entertaining, but still stands, and often as completely undeniable, drying up atmospheric kick enough to dull things down a bit and leave the film to limp out. Storytelling meanders at times, as surely as it takes on the occasional questionable stylistic choice, and yet, with all of my aimless complaining about the slightly underused and generally colorful, circus-themed frame story element and slow spells, there really aren't a whole lot of errors to the final product, but hiccups there are really call your attention to how this film can't afford to make too many mistakes if it aims to truly reward. There's certainly juiciness to this story, but not as much as you might think, or at least hope for, carrying only so much momentum before it begins to get kind repetitious in concept, alone, so when I say that there are not a whole lot of flaws in this film, I mean that there was never to be a whole lot of anything to this film. Needless to say, there's enough meat to this story concept for you to see some clear signs at potential for a rewarding drama, but in the end, this film isn't as rewarding as it perhaps could have been, being a bit too inconsistent and slow for you to ignore the natural shortcomings that end up doing about as much as anything in making an underwhelming effort. Still, while the film is far from outstanding, it impresses enough to entertain adequately and consistently dazzle, maybe even turn in a few decent tunes.

Georges Auric's musical efforts aren't too frequently played upon, and quite frankly, uniqueness to this film's score is substantially less recurring, but it's not like Auric doesn't still turn in a decent score that has enough tasteful color in it to entertaining and often liven things up, even if it's not quite as unique, or as impressive, as the film's outstanding art direction, which backs production designs by Jean d'Eaubonne and costume designs by Georges Annenkov that are so remarkably intricate in their capturing this 19th-century-set world with an intense attention to lavish liveliness that production value ends up being both immersive and dazzling. As far as art direction is concerned, this film almost has to be seen in order to be believed, for although the era this film falls into offers certain limitations to production value's dazzle, the designers of the look of this film make one stunning decision after another, yet not at the expense of enough down-to-earth intricacy to draw you into this dazzling world on a subjective level. Of course, it should go without saying that this film's production value wouldn't be as eye-catching as it most certainly is in the long run if it wasn't for its being gorgeously presented by another truly remarkable artistic attribute: Christian Matras' cinematography, which plays with Cinemascope filming sensibilities to seamlessly marry sweep and intimacy to the scope of this well-produced drama, while playing up vibrant color in a sensationally exuberant that was very much unique at the time, and is still, to this day, breathtaking, bouncing out well-defined color in most-every shot stunningly. The film looks incredible, and not just for its time, thanks to plenty of production value-driven and photographically enhanced eye candy that some films nowadays have trouble challenging, so on a stylistic level, this film is memorable, rewarding, maybe even near-phenomenal, and that does a lot to make the film worth seeing, yet you cannot disregard the engaging color that resides "within" those before the well-lensed camera. There's never anything all that impressive about the acting in this film, but the characters conceptually do a lot to drive the final product's substance, thus there has to be some inspiration the performances, which deliver on just that, with most every member of this colorful cast delivering on charisma and chemistry that go into defining the charming human depths that in turn go into defining this character piece. Of course, the performances wouldn't be quite as charming as they ultimately are if the performers weren't backing up engaging material, which means that Annette Wademant turns in a script that, while uneven and repetitious at times, boasts a fair bit of wit, while director Max Ophüls keeps momentum alive enough to have an engagingingly entertaining beat for every slow spell. Seeing as how there's only so much to this film's substance in concept, acting, writing and direction never delivery a whole lot, but through all of the challenges to your investment, there are enough engaging areas to storytelling to keep you going through and through, even if you do end up wishing that you had more to walk away with.

When the circus has left town, somewhat stylistically uneven storytelling, expository shortcomings and bland spells allow you to meditate upon the natural shortcomings that shake your engagement value, better never so loose that the lovely score work, remarkable production value and incredible cinematography that make up sharp style, as well as the charming performances, witty writing and generally colorful direction that make up entertaining substance, aren't able to keep you locked with "Lola Montès" enough to enjoy yourself just fine through all of the underwhelmingness.

2.5/5 - Fair
April 28, 2013
It is a great shame that Max Ophuls only made one colour wide-screen movie - this one. The master of the tracking shot might have done so much more but this was his last completed movie.

The scenes are mostly well-directed and beautifully photographed but the main problem with "Lola Montès" is Lola. It is impossible for the viewer to understand how this plain, charmless woman (underplayed by Martine Carol) could seduce and inspire composers and kings. Where is the beauty, the sexiness, the vivacity of Lola? I am not asking for a documentary but the real life story of Lola is so much more interesting. I know that Ophuls is commenting on the downside of celebrity - Lola wants to be a star and ends up in a circus (if Ophuls made this today, Lola would appear in a TV "reality" show or sex tape) - but without a compelling central character the spectacle falls as flat as the cardboard cutouts of Lola.
August 18, 2012
I believe this is one of the top 20 greatest films ever made. Not only in my personal sense, but as far as accomplished/literate films go. If any director attempted to even use the basic concept of the film (with the circus act), it wouldn't have been a film that would've mattered, let alone a great one. But, Ophuls completely makes it much more complex than expected. When that happens to this film, it needs a pitch-perfect sense of proportion. Obviously, that has been achieved beyond recognition. Like all great films, it has it's complete balance of a general and personal perspective on things.
Enough about it's masterful construction, I could go on for days. Going into this film, most should know that the cinematography is going to be extraordinary. Max Ophuls has been known for his pristine track shot, which hasn't worn a bit for this film. And what the camera captures is astounding. It is a symphony of beauty, that last every second throughout the film, literally. What really shows how great this film is, is that the cinematography doesn't outweigh the film itself, like so many other films have. Though, this film is the epitome of a visual films.
I feel "Madame De..," (even though I've been praising this so much, "Madame De..." is even better of a film [top 5 greatest ever]) is the closest the French will come to "Citizen Kane". But, "Lola Montes" has something on "Madame De...", which is it's addition of color. It isn't just the fact that it is color, it's the whole concept of it. Being Ophuls' only color film, it shows his urge to explore this new element, and it couldn't have been more beautiful. Another side note, Ophuls' constantly perfect leading actresses, and I believe that Martine Carol just might be the most intriguing of the bunch.
I know I am blandly expressing my love for this film, but I believe it is underestimated in cinema, and urge every insightful cinephile to watch this.
March 6, 2012
The Plot is a jumbled mess at times but it's easy to forgive because of how strikingly beautiful the film is.
November 26, 2011
Not my favorite Ophà 1/4ls' movie.. He was better in black & white.
Frank H.
September 23, 2010
I rented this because I'd only seen a handful of director Max Ophuls' movies: The gorgeous "Letter From an Unknown Woman," the interesting "The Reckless Moment," the less interesting "The Earrings of Madame..." and the fantastic "Caught." Actually, that seems like more than a handful. Criterion recently restored and released his final film "Lola Montes," about the famous dancer and, well, slut, who now must act-out all the scandals of her life at a circus for money. This is unlike any movie I have ever seen. Incredibly romantic and incredibly sad, shot in vivid color and CinemaScope, with a resonant stereo soundtrack. Martine Carol is not compelling in the title role, but she is almost irrelevant, the real star here is Ophuls, who composes an intoxicating blend of light, movement, and color. The only film that comes close in texture is Powell and Pressberger's "The Red Shoes," and even that film seems timid by comparison. I thought it was tremendous. A word of caution: many who will read this will probably dislike it, it certainly will not be everyone's cup of tea. Even today, Ophuls is viewed as a frilly camera fidget in some circles. Excuse me...I'm getting a bit of a chill thinking of the final shot.
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