Lola Montès (1955) Poster


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The chocolate box is empty
erictopp28 April 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.
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the most flawed masterpiece
cvalim26 June 2001
Of all movies that appear here and there in lists of greatest movies of all-time Lola Montès is the most criticized. Ranked by some as one of the 10 greatest, the movie suffers from some slow scenes and a wooden-acted protagonist played by Martine Carol. But the overall effect is mesmerizing. Cinema´s history isn´t made only of perfect movies.

It is the only color movie that Max Ophüls directed and the last of his career. You could only imagine the genius he would be in color films. The circus that links all the facts is a example of decadence in its greens and reds that many advertising-style filmmakers would kill for to get the same effect to show beauty. Ophüls is subtle and the most elegant director that has ever lived. He is one of the fundamental cinema masters (in the same category of Griffith, Chaplin, Eisenstein, Buñuel, Renoir, Welles, Bergman, Ford, Hitchcock, Wilder, Visconti, Mizoguchi, Truffaut, etc) and probably the less seen of them.

Lola Montès received poor critics at the time of its release but was recognized as great art and a summing up of Ophüls´ themes by the French nouvelle vague critics. You find in it some interesting comments about the way the society created by men destroy women and their paths to happiness. Ophüls was an author not a historian. He wasn´t interested in Lola as a historic figure but as a celebrity humiliated by her public just because she tried to be free. Ophüls has decided to make the movie after noticing how press used to treat the crisis of Judy Garland and Zsa Zsa Gabor affairs.

If you want to see other incredible films of the director watch to Libelei, Letter from an Unknown Woman and La Ronde.
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great as spectacle and technical wonder, but also a heartbreaking tale of a lost woman
MisterWhiplash27 February 2009
It is not entirely fair to recommend Lola Montes so highly, or admire it so, since even the version that screened recently at the Film Forum in NYC, purported to be the definitive restoration, is *still* a truncated version. The original director's cut that premiered in France in 1955, and then to immediate withdrawal after its "disaster" of a reception at 140 minutes, is no longer available. At the least, it's a saving grace that so much has been saved in this 115 minute cut, considering how many version there are and how they vary with the running time.

And, for Pete sake, if by some chance you can see it on the big-screen (it's soon to leave the Film Forum for its *second* run following the re-release last October and its re-premiere at the NYFF), do so. The filmmaker, Max Ophuls, in what was his unintentional swan song- he died at 55- shot the hell out of this picture, with director of photography Christian Matras taking the 2:35:1 frame with new Eastmancolor by the horns and shaking it for all it could be worth within the context of a "vibrant" 19th century costume melodrama bio-pic. The colors all jump off so splendidly, with such a force that compels one to not have too long of a blink, as to do so would be to miss on little surprises, little things that Ophuls uses in his frame which he careens and swivels and moves around with the freedom of a curious, pleasantly intoxicated fowl. It's one of the first masterpieces of the widescreen color film.

But it's not just a great film in technical terms. That would be too easy perhaps for Ophuls, who uses this backdrop of the sweeping and sensational to pierce through other deeper things going on with the characters. In Lola Montes his character is someone who re-lives what has happened in her relatively short life (relatively since she's not really "old" in the sense of being tucked away from the public's gaze) as a main attraction in a French circus.

She's an object first and person second in this context, which as one can imagine bustles and throbs with excitement and fun as only something of a cousin to Fellini could be. And yet as a person she's had quite a journey to where she's at: from aristocratic daughter given away to a marriage she has to run away from (unfaithful husband, figures with a wife who is about as beautiful a being as could be in the immediate vicinity), then becomes a ballerina (her childhood dream), and then... well, a topic of gossip and scandal, such as romancing a conductor, all ending in Bavaria with her hopes of possibly settling down squandered for good. Hence the circus gig.

It's a story that's given that same kaleidoscopic view as in Citizen Kane, but this time with the twist that the protagonist isn't given the sort of "luxury" of already being dead as the story of a life is sifted through and given a LARGER-than-LIFE context. Lola's story is a spectacle, sometimes farce, sometimes legend, sometimes one of those too-much-to-believe sagas that keeps those glued to their seats while Lola also entertains with trapeze work! And yet under the blue lights, under the costume changes and other mock-ups and even the Q&A sessions that the ringmaster holds with the audience and Lola, the soul of this woman is about as "there" as a near-empty gas tank. She may still be alive, but it's a kind of limbo that would be too insane if it weren't true and played out to full spectacle and extravaganza.

As said, this is a work of true technical mastery, and there's one amazing camera move or one amazing little direction (I just smiled ear to ear seeing in the opening how the circus performers rolled out, and it stayed for a solid five minutes). But, too, Ophuls has an engaging, wonderful actress on top of having a complete knockout visually: Martine Carol, who I'm not sure I've seen outside of this film, pulls out a performance that wavers between weepy, flustered, driven, elegant, tortured, calm and hiding back hysteria. It's half diva and half substantially undermined human soul, and she pulls it off like it's the performance of a life. Good marks also go to Peter Ustinov as the Ringmaster, chugging along through a script that he knows almost too well (we get very amusing asides with one of the "little" people in the red costumes trying to get their change back from him mid-act), and the actor who played the Bavarian king. In Ophuls hands, they're not just other pieces of the set, but actors who work so diligently to make this all one cohesive piece.

And, really, that's what makes Lola Montes ultimately so remarkable. Ophuls has moments of melodrama, maybe so much so that one will have to really love costume-period-melodrama flicks to really appreciate it (I actually don't usually, this is an exception), and at the same time they all work as part of this story about what lies behind the pomp and circumstance. You can get lost from time to time in this movie, and it's thrilling to get wrapped up in it. And as well as an artistic achievement of considerable proportions, it's a really fun movie to boot.
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An intriguing film, of many facets.
Artemis-920 January 1999
The 140 min version intended for international release (UK and USA) was never shown; one can only guess of the enormous power it had, considering that even the production cut released in Paris for the world premiere caused public riots and the police intervention.

Max Ophüls considered the German version the director's cut, and we are fortunate that mecenas and technical people worked together to restore to its best color and sound the 110 min version. The director presents the story in a logic, not chronological order, using the voice of an American Ring Master (Peter Ustinov in one of his best characters) to describe the life of Maria Dolores Elisa Regina Gilbert (an actual person, who lived from 1818 to 1861), who brought herself up from a poor childhood, through torrid passions with musicians, painters, revolutionaries and nobility (she was titled Countess of Lansfeld by Ludwig I, King of Bavaria.

I saw once the English dubbed version, cut to 90m long (or rather 87...), and though the acting and drama were there, they were clobbered by enormous technical defaults, poor sound and scratched picture. Now I've seen the restored version, and I was riveted to the film during each of its 110 min. Martine Carol speaking German when needed, but falling back to her French language when passion or anger naturally lead her to, is so nice to hear. Peter Ustinov is at his best in the scene where he tries to convince the daring but reluctant ruined Countess to go with him to North America, to play in a Circus; she refuses the huge amounts he is offering, but he leaves her a cheque anyway, and remarks dryly: "In America all scandals can be sold - Lola!" Later, when he gives the order that will eventually put an end to her career, and life (33 year old, with a tired heart, the doctor says), there rings of death in his trembling voice, as we see, like the gallant Lola up there in the trapeze, the black void.

"Gentlemen and boys over 16, come in now... You can see it all now, all that has not been ever seen in a circus show, inside the tent. It's only one dollar... only one dollar... only one dollar..." And the voice goes on and one, and the crowd gets thicker and thicker; men in black tie, and jobless chums, shoulder to shoulder for only one dollar; and the voice goes on, as the show must go on. Forever there must be more bright colors, blaring trumpets, funny animals, scandalous lives to expose. Was THAT the end?
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Max Ophuls Final Masterpiece
FloatingOpera722 February 2005
Warning: Spoilers
With 1955's "Lola Montes" director Max Ophuls concluded his long career. He died shortly afterward. In many ways, this is his greatest film. The first film he used Technicolor was also his last. The cinematography, at its time, and in France especially, was new and innovative. By the mid 50's Technicolor was all the rage. However, only few directors could make a colorful film dramatic and not just fluff. Ophuls adapted the historic account of 19th century world famous courtesan Lola Montes to a fictionalized drama of her life. In the end of her life, Lola Montes is the feature attraction at a circus, headed by the money-hungry P.T. Barnum-like ringmaster played by the excellent actor Peter Ustinov. Through a series of panoramas and stunts her life is retold. The movie is mostly her flashbacks, though not necessarily in chronological order. She recalls how her mother sold her to a man she did not love. She ended that marriage and became a dancer/courtesan. A sex icon of her time, she drew many famous lovers. Among these was the mesmerizing pianist Franz Liszt, who rocked the world of classical music in the 19th century. Liszt abandons Lola who does not take long in taking up new lovers, each more powerful than the last. Her "ascent" - showcased by climbing ladders up to the suspended cage above the ring, represents her social climbing as a courtesan. At the height of her career, she was the mistress of the then politically troubled King Ludwig of Bavaria, the "Mad King", played successfully and effectively by Anton Walbrook.

Lola is played by Martin Carol, a French model and actress who in real life died tragically. For this role, Carol did not accentuate the sensuality or free spirit of the eponymous heroine, who was known to be quite liberal, independent and highly sexual. This would be because it was the repressive 50's and sex was definitely not accepted on film or on television. Carol portrays Lola as a dignified woman, adding a touch of class and even pathos. She's even a victim of a male-dominated and cruel society. She's a quiet submissive object of beauty, as still as the Odelisk painting she poses for "en rose" or in the nude. The sad finale makes us feel very sorry for Lola. While we think she will die from that high jump to the center ring, especially because she has just re-lived her hard life through memories, and endured much public inspection by shameless spectators. However, she lives, but barely, as a sad, resigned woman who is possibly living her last days as the object of attention, though this time to her own detriment. Her glory days behind her, she's nothing but a sideshow now, where men pay for a kiss from her. My favorite scenes: Lola as a young girl on a cruise with her mother who is bent on marrying her off, Lola dancing at the Paris Opera Ballet, Lola and Liszt, Lola and her indiscreet affair with the married conductor of the Tivoli cabaret Claudio Pirotto. And of course the scenes with the King Ludwig. And that finale still gets to me.
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The Most Scandalous Woman of the Nineteenth Century
Claudio Carvalho9 January 2011
In the Nineteenth Century, the Irish born dancer Lola Montès (Martine Carol) was the lover of many famous men, including Franz Liszt and the King Ludwig I of Bavaria, who made her Countess of Landsfeld. With a revolutionary movement, she flees from Munich and travels to the United States of America. She is hired by the Circus Master (Peter Ustinov) that tells her scandalous love affairs in every show and she becomes the lead attraction of the circus.

"Lola Montès" is not my favorite Max Ophüls film, but it is certainly his best work of cinematography, costumes and art decoration. The restored DVD highlights these aspects and it recalls Luchino Visconti style. However, the narrative of the life of the most scandalous European woman of the Nineteenth Century is tiresome in many moments. My vote is seven.

Title (Brazil): "Lola Montèz"
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Cirque de Celebrity
mukava99130 August 2010
Watching "Lola Montes" often feels like rollerskating up and down hilly streets lined with sumptuously designed department store windows. At other times you would swear that Josef von Sternberg made a 50s comeback in color, so packed are the frames and so obstructed are the sightlines; the only thing missing is the Sternbergian close-ups. Then you might wonder if Bertolt Brecht had a hand in the screenplay, so alienated are we from the emotional core of this woman's life.

The film seesaws between a circus act starring the middle-aged title character (Martine Carol) and flashbacks to her past. In the circus setting, ringmaster Peter Ustinov presents a series of impossibly lavish tableaux which depict points in Montes's scandalous life. The flashbacks include her first marriage, her dalliance with King Ludwig I of Bavaria (Anton Walbrook), and her relationship with a Bavarian student (Oskar Werner). In reality, Montes never appeared as the star of such a circus act, but this film's creators have chosen to present her life in these terms in order to cast her as a metaphor of the celebrity freak, no different in essence from a circus animal who jumps through hoops or a daredevil who engages in public spectacle. She is almost always seen from a distance, as if to emphasize her actual insignificance. The parallels to our contemporary celebrity culture are obvious.

But beyond this commentary on celebrity and the technical virtuosity of the busy sets and panning camera, there is nothing much here. There is certainly no compelling drama. The central character is so distanced from the viewer that she can only be grasped as a concept, not as a human being.

And I have to agree with others that Baz Luhrmann's "Moulin Rouge" comes to mind, but even that endless Carnival Cruise Ship commercial had a clear central love story.
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Colorful Spectacle, Dull.
Robert J. Maxwell21 April 2014
Warning: Spoilers
The framing conceit is Peter Ustinov as a circus ringmaster, putting Lola Montes on display, and charging money for each question asked of her, mostly concerning her affairs with famous men. In that register of celebrity, she rivals Alma Maria Schindler. As each question is asked -- "What was her youth like?" and so forth -- we get to watch a flashback and see her development into what Ustinov keeps calling a femme fatale.

It's in wide screen, the musical score is majestic, and the movie is splashed with colors varying in their degree of luridness. I kind of liked the decor. All that crimson Victorian-era flock or whatever it's called. A few more plastic ferns and beaded curtains and it would look like a 1910 Egyptian whorehouse or like my apartment, both settings being so similar.

Granted that a lot of imagination has gone into the production, as well as a lot of talent and money. I believe Picasso had imagination and talent too, but look what he produced. One magnificent panel of the bombing of a Spanish town, and the rest are stone-faced clowns or models with three breasts.

There has to be a point to the whole thing, and it must somehow involve the viewer. I don't think there was a moment I cared about what happened to Lola Montes. Her character is more marionette than seductress. And the dialog doesn't help. Franz Liszt: "It is better that we part this way." Lola: "Some day we will meet again, you at your concert and me on my stage." Liszt: "It will have to be a coincidence." Lola: "All of life is a coincidence." That's deeply profound.

I'm not bashing the movie because I didn't make it to the end, and evidently it has a lot of popular appeal, but I can't help wondering -- if it had been directed by someone named, say, Bruce Ophuls instead of Max, would it have had the same appeal?
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Give it a chance
gosparx13 September 2004
Baz Luhrmann's "Moulin Rouge!" owes something to Lola Montes.

The movie has its moments -- it worked for me as a meditation on the exploitation of love, and the exploitation of despair. Some have commented on the wooden Martine Carol performance, but I thought that was the point. Lola Montes is a blank slate onto whom her admirers project what they want to see. She's vibrant and captivating only to men who want her. And why do they want her? The endless stream of men willing to pay a dollar to kiss her hand -- they want her only because so many other men have wanted her, famous men. It's not about getting a piece of Lola the person, it's about getting a piece of Lola the brand. She's a product (in a cage!) marketed by Ustinov. They have a creepily symbiotic relationship -- the huckster needs his product, and the product needs to be sold.

Before she sells out to Ustinov, Lola lives for love, exploits it for all she's worth, and is exploited for all she's worth. In despair, she turns to Ustinov's show, where she daily and literally recreates her fall from the heights of romance to the tawdry center ring, where her life is exposed to question and ridicule from the cheap seats.

Not a bad flick. I thought the cheesy storytelling techniques -- the flashbacks, the elements of predictability (of course she's going to meet the King of Germany) her "dangerously weak heart" and the concerned doctor -- were ham handed by design, slyly self-mocking. Lola Montes is a movie worth seeing and thinking about.
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Spectacularly Dull
Hitchcoc25 January 2010
If a film were purely spectacle and music, I would give this a 10. Unfortunately, the lack of charisma of the principle actress makes it hard to sit through. It is a series of vignettes offered to attendees of a circus where Miss Montes answers questions for a quarter and lets her hand be kissed for a dollar (the French exchange rate comes into play, of course). The movie is nice to look at with rich colors and interesting circus scenes. I wonder if the film has been worked on because it literally glows. It's the self importance of Carol and the tiresome people who seem to bring it down a bit. I never felt sympathy for her character; her arbitrariness just lost me. Franz Liszt looks like the second place winner in a Fabio look-alike contest. Then we are to feel great sorrow for her because she needs to stay in a dormitory for a short time on an ocean voyage. Because she feels slighted, she begins to get this crust about her and begin to use people. She is a courtesan in the true sense. Carol just doesn't work. Now Marlene Dietrich. There you go. Ophuls is interesting and this was his last film. It's certainly eye candy.
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Glossy 50's facade with a Philospher's Heart
Kara Dahl Russell25 October 2006
When a movie is hailed as one of the greatest movies of all time, it is hard for it to live up to it, especially when it is the product of the 1950s. A millennium viewer's eye is unkind to this era.

I am one of many who see this film as a clear precursor to Baz Lehrman's MOUIN ROUGE. Lots of spectacle, with a story behind it - sometimes literally behind it, seeping through like a remembered waltz. It should be clear from the circus setting that we are in for a heavily artistic analogy that is jokingly self-referential. This is a story of woman who has not only sold her life story to the rabble, but sold herself as well. Beauty is a commodity with a limited shelf life, and life is to be lived while you're young. The inside joke that this dancer had very little talent, but was world famous, certainly still could be applied to many stars – or – ahem – children of stars who have their own coattail careers.

Many of today's audiences don't see the appeal of Martine Carol, but she is exactly the prototype of the 1950s glossy ideal. Many men don't like all the make-up, but she is undeniably a beauty, and the bust to waist ratio is still the kind that makes men stop and stare… the 1950s word was "stacked." Far from being wooden, she is playing a beauty trapped by her looks. The acting style is an older, more presentational style, but that was still being done in the states in many films at this time, too. Given that the context here is a circus performance, and that a lot is physically being required of Ms. Carol, she deserves more grace from modern audiences..

Ustinov makes the most of his stage presence in this role, and overall, this film gives us a wonderful interplay between the layers of being on-stage, backstage, asides and aborted conversations, and the interplay of memories with what is currently happening. It is a confectionery layer cake that is rarely attempted on film. When you notice that a hard boiled clown is running the show without a care whether his performers die, this clearly is not a story to be viewed only for its surface.

Meanwhile, the surface is early Technicolor lovely, brisk and bright with tremendously artistic imagery, and sweeping music. The bedroom scene with Lizst and Lola shot through a wrought iron frame, surrounded by red curtains… these are film images that live in the mind, that can not be denied. The subtle echos between the Circus sets and the "real" sets are both silly and smart – the latter often being obviously fake sets as well. This is part of the layered reality. The art design echos elements of the silent film "Les Enfants du Paradis." This would have been more obvious to film fans in France in 1955.

This film has been called subtle, it could also be called unclear, even nihilistic. This philosophy was certainly in vogue in '50s Europe. We are left to ponder if all gilded cages are still just cages, and if any road leads to a happy ending. More than anything, it is the closing of this film that makes LOLA greater than the sum of its parts, and makes you sit back and think.
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jonathan-5772 January 2008
Max Ophuls' final film, which I viewed in its restored German version, is quite the visual onslaught in widescreen - the extravagant framing device depicting the historic bed-hopper as a circus 'freak' among many, many acrobats and jugglers is the work of someone slaving feverishly to dazzle us. The distanced spectacle sucks us in, and it all looks great, but the toil of the film-making efforts end up deflecting attention from Lola herself - maybe Martine Carol isn't up for the job like everyone says, but more importantly all that metaphor stuff seems to crowd out time she could use to draw us in. The dalliance in the palace through the third act supplies Ophuls' requisite plot disfigurement - everything I've seen except Madame De... has SOME kind of unsatisfying ding in the arc. And the 'sumptuous' color compositions - which are pretty overwhelming in and of themselves, especially when the restoration is working from top sources - seem to limit the opportunities for the big Ophuls Camera Swoops that usually lively things up.
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amazingly flat and uninteresting
MartinHafer25 September 2005
This movie is proof that the French, too, can make movies that are big budget spectacles that are dull and uninvolving. Like Around the World in 80 Days, The English Patient and The Last Emperor, this movie is BIG--bigger than life. And, like these other examples, sterile and uninteresting. It isn't that it's a bad movie---it certainly isn't. It's just with all the money and effort, it should have been better. As far as the style of the film, alternating from the circus to flashbacks, it sure reminded me of Max Ophüls' other film, Le Ronde. However, unlike Le Ronde, it lacked charm and style--it instead had a lavish budget and plastic characters. Plus, although the actress playing Lola was not completely unattractive, I had a very hard time imagining men falling for her.
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A travesty
christopher-underwood3 December 2009
I understand this film was not much liked on original release and was edited down against the director's wishes.

Now fully restored, I can only say that I can understand the original critics. This is overlong with a preposterous and completely overacted central role from the whip cracking ring master, Peter Ustinov.

I also find it incomprehensible that a leading lady so inept, ungainly and plain looking could have been even considered for the role of the infamous, Lola Montes. At no stage during this ridiculous farce do we get any idea whatsoever what made the lady herself so alluring to anybody at all.

A travesty.
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A Lost Gem, Gloriously Remastered
MCDRLx18 June 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Restored to its original form for the first time since 1955, "Lola Montes" made an immediate impression on critics' circles nationwide after its screening at this year's New York Film Festival and for good reason: Max Ophuls' largely forgotten swan song is a work of art rooted in old-fashioned Romanticism, yet at the same time crafted with such cinematic power that its content and characterizations have barely aged.

Directed by Ophuls and starring French actress Martine Carol in the leading role, "Lola Montes" is equal parts classical melodrama and groundbreaking cinematic exercise. Ophuls' camera glides effortlessly through the air, introducing us to the film's setting in grandiose fashion. As the circus sets the tone of artifice, flashbacks begin to act as the primary storytelling device: As the ringmaster (Peter Ustinov) promises "the most sensational act of the century," costumed performers take the stage to reenact the life of Lola Montes, the Irish-born dancer who set out to conquer the hearts of men.

The film's depiction of Lola's brief tryst with renowned composer Franz Liszt is more or less true to history. So is her well-documented seduction of King Ludwig I of Bavaria, a relationship that eventually led to the latter's fall from grace and abdication in the midst of revolution. A telling conversation between the two affirms "Lola Montes" as a tragic character study: "You like my dancing?" Lola asks eagerly, her eyes lighting up. The King's blunt answer all but encapsulates Ophuls' flawed-heroine subtext: "Not at all," he says. "But you know how to trigger a scandal, excite an audience. And that is the most important thing." Though the film feels significantly slow-paced for its two-hour running time, it is no short on content. Breaking away from conventional narrative structure is nothing new to Ophuls, and it is seen here in "Lola Montes" to an astonishing degree. Between the elegance of the flashback sequences and the squalidness of the circus, the film hints at the transient nature of time, blurring the distinction between memory and reality. The cyclical nature of the film reveals itself as Lola's relationships blossom as quickly as they deteriorate. In "Lola Montes", Ophuls presents the heroine as a woman to be reckoned with, a persona that in the end brings her both pleasure and despair.

Yet there is still more about "Lola Montes" than what meets the eye. It is a director's film in the truest sense, and any evaluation of it should be taken in the light of the history of the medium itself. Ophuls himself alternated between a celebrated career and relative obscurity; though his cinematic contemporaries held "Lola Montes" in high regard, filmgoers at the time shunned it for what they perceived as a hollow and artificial attempt at commercial movie-making. Tellingly, both Ophuls and his subject are now more remembered for the dizzying heights they once reached than for the missteps that led to their intermittent downfalls.

But no matter: scaling heights means next to nothing for femme fatales like Lola. In a key sequence near the end of the film, our heroine stands breathless at the top of the circus beams, her eyes vacant, devoid of seduction, starving for attention. As part of the final aerial act, Lola prepares to take a dangerous leap of faith. Will she accept the protective net underneath or risk her own safety by falling freely into a void of uncertainty, where life and death are equated by chance? The audience holds its breath for her response, but she leaves them hanging. What other choice, besides the riskier alternative, would one expect from Lola Montes?
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Whatever Lola Wants ...
writers_reign24 May 2004
... she doesn't get it here and it is difficult to know where she WOULD get it. Max Ophuls was one of if not THE most elegant director who ever looked thru a viewfinder whilst conversely Martine Carol was one of the most wooden performers since Laurence Harvey so what we're left with is a case of the irresistible force meeting the immovable object. They were never going to cram all the events of Lola's life into even a four-hour movie, all the more surprising since she was dead at 40 and squeezed all her scandalous living into just over half that time. Ophuls, master of black and white story telling opted for color in what turned out to be his last film and we can only speculate by how far he would have eclipsed say Minelli had he lived. What emerges thru all the truncated and reconstructed versions is little more than a blueprint for a masterpiece manque. 7/10
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More than just a story about Montes and her life?
Alondra-Monte7 April 2003
Lola Montes: just a story about a woman with many lovers? What if Lola was a "stand in" for Ophuls, who worked for the Hollow-wood, film industry/circus when Europe became off limits due to the Nazis. Lola in Europe: vibrant, bursting with energy, amoral. Lola in the USA: wooden, sick, defeated, "performing" before a public of provincial, prudish/salacious hicks. And the clown, perhaps the owner of the studio. How many foreign directors, actors, etc come to Hollow wood and become quite hollow? Just what if-ing....
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I know I should give this movie a lesser mark than six, but I just can't do it!
JohnHowardReid19 May 2017
Warning: Spoilers
A most interesting film, but Ophuls' masterpiece it is not. Often sweepingly directed in Ophuls' usual imaginatively rococo style and full to overflowing with rich pictorial splendors, certainly, but at times, incredibly, it is just plain dull. I've only seen the complete 140-minute version. It is possible that the re-edited versions are more lively, but I've no great desire to see them.

Sad to say, one of my favorite stars, Martine Carol, does not come out of this chore with any great distinction. A wordy and poorly characterized script is partly to blame. It's also probable that director Ophuls spent so much time arranging the film's decor and its opulent visual effects, he had little to spare for Miss Carol — a natural beauty but not a natural actress. She's a lady that needs careful and sympathetic direction. Here, as in her other disasters such as "Action of the Tiger" (1957) and "The Stowaway" (1958), she was doubtless left largely to her own devices. Her costumes are a problem too. Colorful enough, but far too dressy. Hardly the sort of material to inspire her fans to commence cheering.

The other actors are not much help either. Peter Ustinov's slow delivery hinders the pace as much as the careful mannerisms of Anton Walbrook. But at least Walbrook has presence, whereas Ustinov appears miscast. Ivan Desny seems too heavy, and by contrast, Oscar Werner too eager.

Breathtaking photography with an often inspired use of CinemaScope, plus huge production values, can only marginally save what — sad to say — basically comes across as a rather empty, emotionally sterile production. (The 110-minutes CinemaScope version is currently available on a Fox Lorber DVD).
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The Femme is not so Fatale
patherto15 April 2004
The entire film rests on Martine Carol, and I'm afraid she just isn't the girl for me. I can't imagine anyone wanting to die for her, or even suffer a little. Ustinov is wonderful, the camerawork and choreography are dizzyingly effective, and the concept of the film holds great potential. I'm a fan of Ophuls and think his films are remarkable. But…I have the same problem with Jeanne Moreau. Both Carol and Moreau are supposed to be devastating, and they are simply not up to the job. (At least Moreau smiles every now and again.)
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Max Awfuls
realreel18 September 2002
This is perhaps the most overrated film in cinematic history. While Max Ophuls' contributions to camera movement are undeniable, "Lola Montes" is proof positive that mechanical innovations do not a great auteur make. One has to feel for Peter Ustinov and Oskar Werner, whose talents, while evident here, are utterly wasted. [Less evident are the abilities of George Auric and Christian Matras-- soundtrack composer and cinematographer, respectively-- who, having worked on many of the finest French films of the period, clearly did not put their best efforts into this project.]

The flaws here are too numerous to list. Foremost among them are: the utter ineptitude of Martine Carol as Lola Montes; a disastrously two-dimensional screenplay with an anticlimactic ending; the series of intrusive flashbacks; a corny, stereotypically romantic French score; the use of a painfully vibrant Technicolor palette; Ophuls' ever-present, annoying use of the moving camera. Only the inclusion Maurice Chevalier or Cantinflas could have made this film worse. It is amazing to think that this was the first film on which Marcel Ophuls, director of "The Sorrow and the Pity," cut his teeth, as a 28 year-old assistant director.

The virtues of "Lola Montes", on the other hand, are too few to list. Even the credits are horrible. It is a debacle of the highest order and one ought not to waste two hours of one's life on it. The very fact that certain critics include it on top ten lists does not speak to Ophuls gifts, but rather the lack of taste among supposed film cognoscenti. To grant this "work of art" even one star would be to give it undue credit.
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best movie ever made?
utku_x26 May 2009
i saw this movie very late, i am shameful for this, that i happen to watch so many rubbish movies but forget to watch some real treasures.

OK, i accept the fact that there are better movies elsewhere. but for romantic people, this movie have a special importance i guess. or i hope? yes, title character is not rene zellweger or meg ryan type of a super lovely , always smiling person. but this is not a movie for superficial romantics.

Carol is lovely throughout the movie..and ustinov is at his best.

21. century is the time of visial arts. and this 1955 made movie is a visual artpiece can never get old or outdated. must see
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I do not know if one can call that a masterpiece !
lionel.willoquet29 April 2002
The tragic destiny of a famous courtesan of the XIXe century. Masterpiece of max Ophuls, a fresco baroque and cruel which offers to Martine Carol one her more beautiful roles. On the other hand for Peter Ustinov I would say that it is not its best film, it plays better in "Appointment with Death".
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Unfortunately Max Ophüls' only color movie, is one to remember.
Boba_Fett113827 August 2010
This movie made me wish Max Ophüls would had made more color movies during his career. This is the only color movie he did and the last movie he completed as well, after passing away way too early in 1957. It's a beautiful, colorful looking movie, that has some of the usual typical Max Ophüls ingredients in it as well.

I can definitely understand people finding Max Ophüls boring ones to watch. They are not just movies for just everybody, especially not for todays usual type of audience. Luckily the majority of people still seem to be able to appreciate his movies and his more slow but very stylish and strong way of story-telling.

It's narrative is probably the movie its strongest point. It isn't necessarily the story itself this time that makes this movie stand out. It's a movie that follows a plot-line set in the present, combined with another story, that of Lola Montès life, told in flashbacks. It's an approach that works out so well and interesting for the movie.

I wouldn't exactly call this movie a real biopic, since it only focuses on some of the early years of Lola Montès her life. In all honesty, I think her real life and character was much more interesting and complex than the one that is being told in this movie but that would had simply made an entire different movie. So it really doesn't matter that this movie takes a lot of liberties and only tells a small part of Lola Montès her entire lifespan. This was simply not the approach that had been chosen by Max Ophüls, who simply tried to tell a good, compelling, compact story, about an intriguing woman. Max Ophüls always seemed to have had a fascination for female behavior and especially for those that didn't simply went with the flow and did other things than were expected from them. He did this even with movies that were about simple housewives and was not afraid to show people how they often really are and that not everything is always black and white in life.

Like basically every big Max Ophüls movie, this one is a period piece, which means that is has some great looking sets and costumes, that this time even catch more attention, since it got all shot in color. But that doesn't mean that it distracts from the story or all of the other typical Max Ophüls elements that make most of his movie so incredibly effective and compelling to watch, with this one included.

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Where are we going?
cstotlar-119 January 2011
"Lola Montes" is a film about movement in every way. The famous tracking shots, so widely written about, are absolutely necessary here and in Max Ophuls' direction reached an apogee. They dominate such different story lines as "Le plaisir", "Madame De...", "Liebelei" and the rest but here the subject is motion - a life in perpetual, ceaseless motion. Actually this motive was appealing to Ophuls in general - lost earrings, the dance of the masked man and down the line -but here it uses a life as its opening premise. Actually the film is not really concerned with the title character as with the men whose lives it touches. In that capacity Martine Carol fulfills her role quite adequately. There's not much to see in Lola - she is portrayed in two dimensions throughout the film and her character was never intended to come to life. The men around her, on the other hand, are a wonderful lot with totally different responses to Lola's seductiveness and this is at the core of the film. The colors of the circus are fabulous and the season's of Lola's life depicted in some of the most sophisticated color schemes I've ever encountered. The wintry blues and whites in the palace with the snow depict the end of one man's life while the autumnal shades of her affair with Liszt were breath-taking. Someone reported that Phuls had actually painted the ground around the carriage to simulate the end of an affair. My only objection in the entire film is George Auric's overuse of his beautiful opening music at the film's beginning. It outlasted its welcome, unfortunately. This is a great film and fitting end to a remarkable career by yet another - Max Ophuls.

Curtis Stotlar
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