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 film tells the tragic story of Lola Montès, a great adventurer who becomes the main attraction of a circus after being the lover of various important European men.
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Tech specs720p.BLU 1080p.BLU
1 hr 55 min