Sunday, May 27, 2018

Marie Dolores Eliza Rosanna Gilbert, Countess of Landsfeld

Todays movie is Max Ophüls' Lola Montès.

The movie starts off with an unnamed circus ringmaster (Peter Ustinov) telling a circus audience how they're going to meet and learn the life story of one of the most spectacular circus attractions to come down the pike in a long time: Lola Montez, born in Ireland but using the name Lola Montez to pass herself off as exotic. (Her name was spelled Montez, despite the movie's title being "Montès".) Lola (played by Martine Carol) herself is there to answer questions from the audience, with scenes from her life being portrayed in the circus ring by tableaux vivants, something you may recall from my mention of Florence Foster Jenkins last year. What would probably have been those tableaux vivants are shown as flashbacks.

Lola was a famed courtesan, having an affair with Franz Liszt before being forced to flee France. Eventually she made her way to Bavaria, Germany not having been unified at the time, where she meets an unnamed student (Oskar Werner) and then Bavarian King Ludwig I (not the "mad" king who was Ludwig II; the King being played by Anton Walbrook). All the men in Lola's life are immediately taken with her, although she seemed to bring bad luck to everybody. In the case of Ludwig, it's that his romance with Lola is not popular among his subjects, and when the revolutions of 1848 come, his and Lola's relationship is one of the reasons they revolt.

Lola eventually made her way to America and resumed her enterainment career for a while; as I mentioned when I reviewed Mitzi Gaynor's Golden Girl a few months back Montez was entertaining miners out in California in the early 1850s. In real life she didn't perform with any American circus. She died young, which I would assume why one of the plot points in the movie is that doctors are worried she's too sick to do her big stunt at the climax of the movie.

Lola Montès is a physically beautiful movie to watch, but one that I found a bit frustrating in terms of the story. I couldn't help but think of Sissi, which was made around the same time, has similarly beautiful color and some Bavarian settings, and has a story that made me shake my head. In the case of Sissi, however, my problem was that the story was impossibly romantic. With Lola Montès, the much bigger problem is that we don't really get to know the subject of the movie, who is left as a bit of a mystery. And from what we do get to know of her, I didn't particularly care for her. That's a big problem for a movie like this.

Still, thanks to the cinematography and direction, there are a lot of people who can overlook the problems with the story and give the movie extremely positive reviews. I, however, would give this one a less positive review than something like Sissi as I found myself unable to overlook those problems with the story.

Lola Montès received a restoration about a decade ago, and that restoration print is the one that is on the pricey Criterion DVD and Blu-ray.

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