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An all-knowing interlocutor guides us through a series of affairs in Vienna, 1900. A soldier meets an eager young lady of the evening. Later he has an affair with a young lady, who becomes a maid and does similarly with the young man of the house. The young man seduces a married woman. On and on, spinning on the gay carousel of life. Written by
Ed Sutton <firstname.lastname@example.org>
A fanciful waltz through the ephemeral ballroom of love
Through a series of dove-tailing love vignettes, Max Ophüls offers us an enchanting film replete with some of the greatest acting talent French cinema has known. The brevity of the individual segments of the film does not greatly impair the quality of the characterisation or acting performance, and there are some very impressive moments, particularly the scenes with Jean-Louis Barrault (best know for his role in Les Enfants du Paradis) and Simone Signoret (Les Diaboliques and Casque d'Or).
The film is surprisingly - for a film of its age - pretty explicit about the sexual proclivities of the aristocracy and military men. That a respectable middle-aged married woman should seek an amorous adventure with a man half her age, whilst her wealthy husband carries on with a young woman barely out of her teens most probably caused a few raised eyebrows when the film was released in 1950 - particularly when the film is very much in the velvet-lined mould of the traditional pre-war French romantic film.
The most impressive aspect of the film, above the great acting and splendid direction, is its humour. This is a film that is unable to take itself seriously. The mysterious raconteur (superbly played by Anton Walbrook) endeavours to keep the merry-go-round of love happily on its course, but has a few technical problems on the way. It's reassuring to know that even all-knowing deities have their off-days.
Another strong point is Oscar Straus's musical score, particularly the raconteur's merry-go-round ballad which accompanies the film throughout, not unlike the cheery music of a real merry-go-round in a fairground.
This has all the ingredients of a great film. It is a fanciful waltz across the ephemeral ballroom of love, and it succeeds admirably.
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