Monday, May 6, 2013

Lola Montes. B

To be disappointed by Lola Montes is to feel that the film comes up short in the category of compelling dramatic content. But no one walks away from Max Ophuls' last film and says it's boring to look at. Along with some of the Powell/Pressburger pictures, Lola Montes ranks at the top of the pre-1960s color spectacles. Ophuls, one of the great visual stylists of the cinema, defies conventional camera and shot arrangements and mainly keeps his lens at a distance. The film consists almost entirely of medium and long shots, as Ophuls' camera follows the action, presumably to allow the viewer to take in as much of the sets and landscapes as possible. Vibrant colors are found everywhere, from the circus in which Montes performs, to the costume design, to the buildings, to stunning snowfall. The scenes in the circus are amazing cinematic feats; when Ophuls flashes back to show us bits of Montes' life, we almost feel as if we are looking at a Norman Rockwall painting (stylistically, of course). And yet the movie could have been a better one if Montes' were presented as a more interesting person. She's largely devoid of any interesting characteristics, and as played by Martine Carol, she comes across as rather insipid. I hate to say this about a Max Ophuls film, but this one is a little like one of those modern big budget Hollywood movies where people say "it's all style, no substance." Then again, perhaps that's precisely what Ophuls wanted. A film to visually represent a legendary, extravagant performer whose heart was as empty as this movie's is. 

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