Lola Montès Reviews
-that "Ophuls's women...exist in a world of impermanence, of transition", matched my the constant movement of the camera (which called a lot of attention to itself, I thought, and added some interest).
-that Lola is revived to make her dive BY the comment that men will be paying to kiss her hand afterward, "her final victory". I didn't pick up on that watching it, but the movie makes a bit more sense that way.
Beautifully shot film with fantastic color. I love the surreal circus displays and her wonderfully over the top outfits. There's a lull in her last memory of Germany, but for the most part it's a well paced and certainly fantastically (and revolutionarily) structured film.
In one word - dizzying.
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
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.
The latter it is, but I can't buy into the excuses being made for the main character's actress' monochromatic performance. There are probably few films that were composed as artfully as this one, by 1955, when it was made. But this sort of artistic consistence in film is commonplace now. For example, ":The Life of Pi" has more visual heft than this film in the first 45 minutes, and there have been many more like it since Lola Montes was made.
That said, Lola Montes *is* from 1955, so it was no doubt amazing to see at that time. If you are good at keeping that sort of context in mind, then indeed - Lola Montes will be an amazing film to watch. Just ignore the main character and concentrate on the sets and direction.
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.