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Lola Montes (The Criterion Collection)

4.0 out of 5 stars 35 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

The 19th-century courtesan recalls Franz Liszt and the king of Bavaria. Director Max Ophuls' last film.


Max Ophüls explores the scandalous life of dancer and courtesan Lola Montes with a bittersweet empathy that turns melodrama into a tragic melancholy masterpiece. Using the theatrical re-creation of Lola's life in a big-top pageant as a framing device, Ophüls contrasts the outrageous sensationalism of her reputation with poignant, poetic flashbacks that explore her many affairs, most notably with Franz Liszt (Will Quadflieg) and King Ludwig of Bavaria (Anton Walbrook). Lola's greatest tragedy is that she loved well, if not too wisely. If Martine Carol's central performance is lacking passion, as many critics have argued, her quiet, at times seemingly passive demeanor makes her a veritable prisoner of her society and her reputation. Swept along by Ophüls's sweeping camerawork, which glides through the film in a balance of intimacy and contemplative remove as if on the wings of angels, her life becomes like a cinematic ballet with Ophüls the choreographer and conductor. Peter Ustinov costars as the jaded circus ringmaster, who nightly narrates her exploits to a throng of scandal-hungry spectators, while she performs with a face hardened in indifference, resigned to her empty role as a figure of spectacle in a garish gilded cage. Shot in delicate color and impeccably composed widescreen compositions throughout by Ophüls's regular cinematographer Christian Matras, Lola Montes is his most beautiful and restrained film, a fitting swan song for one of the cinema's most sensitive directors. --Sean Axmaker

Special Features

New, restored high-definition digital transfer
Audio commentary featuring Max Ophuls scholar Susan White
Max Ophuls ou le plaisir de tourner, a 1965 episode of the French television program Cinéastes de notre temps, featuring interviews with many of Ophuls’s collaborators
Max by Marcel, a new documentary by Marcel Ophuls about his father and the making of Lola Montès
Silent footage of actress Martine Carol demonstrating the various glamorous hairstyles in Lola Montès
Theatrical rerelease trailer from Rialto Pictures
New and improved English subtitle translation
A booklet featuring an essay by film critic Gary Giddins film info

Product Details

  • Actors: Martine Carol, Peter Ustinov, Anton Walbrook, Henri Guisol, Lise Delamare
  • Directors: Max Ophüls
  • Writers: Peter Ustinov, Max Ophüls, Annette Wademant, Cécil Saint-Laurent, Franz Geiger
  • Producers: Albert Caraco
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC, Special Edition, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: French
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.55:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Criterion
  • DVD Release Date: February 16, 2010
  • Run Time: 116 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B002XUL6QC
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #71,872 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Lola Montes (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By mirasreviews HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 1, 2010
Format: DVD
"Lola Montes" was German director Max Orphuls' first film in color, first in Cinemascope, and his last film. Due to its terrible reception in Paris in 1955, the film was re-cut twice -once by Orphuls and once by the producers- in attempts to make it more palatable to audiences. It was the most expensive European film ever made when it was released, so it was a notable flop. The first attempt to restore the "Lola Montes" to its original cut was made in 1968 from an incomplete print. The version on Criterion Collection 2010 DVD is a complete restoration, completed under the leadership of La Cinémathèque française in 2008.

This has long been a film appreciated more by filmmakers than by audiences. It appeals either to those who scrutinize its camerawork or who can place it in the context of film history or of Max Orphuls' work. That said, and although the film is technically interesting, I found it quite watchable. "Lola Montes" was the stage name of Elisabeth Rosanna Gilbert, a famed Spanish dancer, courtesan, and mistress of King Ludwig I of Bavaria in the 1840s. Orphuls reduces her to a circus attraction in middle age, taking impertinent questions from the audience and recreating her scandalous life on stage through absurd tableaux vivants and dangerous stunts.

In fact, Lola Montes was never in a circus, and Orphuls hits the viewer over the head with his condemnation of exploitation and objectification, represented by Lola's (Martine Carol) circus act and its callous ringmaster (Peter Ustinov). I can't help but think this is at least partly responsible for the film's poor reception. As a rule, movies that scold, accuse, or condemn their own audiences are not popular. When Orphuls shames the audience of that circus, they are stand-ins for the film's audience.
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Format: Blu-ray
This Criterion BluRay is simply ravishing in every detail: image and sound perfectly restored allowing us to experience this film as no other edition ever has. Utterly gorgeous. "Lola Montes" is one of my favorite films - although using the word "favorite" seems a bit reductive for such a beautiful work of art. It is a grand and kaleidoscopic refraction of a life. A note about running times - one of the Amazon reviews again cites the legend of a "director's cut" that had a 140 minute running time. This is just a myth, not supported by any contemporary accounts of the film - apparently just a factual error made once by some critic or author - and now repeated and fostered in error (even Pauline Kael in her writings repeated it!). NYC's Film Forum tried to lay this myth to rest when they screened the restored version - but apparently to no avail as it keeps popping up. As noted on the Turner Classic movie site: "With the director's version unavailable for years a rumor quickly spread that the original was 140 minutes long (it was actually 113 minutes in France and 116 minutes in Germany)". Rest assured that the Criterion Edition is indeed the fully restored version representing the director's intentions.
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Format: DVD
When the era of poetic realism ended in France (the 1930s), a new kind of cinema developed, a kind of cinema that was called the 'cinema of quality' (1940s-1950s). Films that came out of the cinema of quality were usually films that tried to achieve the success of typical Hollywood films (needing big budget, famous stars, cheesy slap-in-the-face story, etc.). Martine Carole was one of these famous actresses of this particular era. This film is not just a autobiographical portrayal of the femme fatale Lola Montes, but Ophuls had surely made himself clear in his idea of totally ridiculing the actress herself and the cinema of quality studio system. Carol's mannequin-like acting was intentional (though she was not at all a good actress in her other films), just like Ophuls wanted it to be(for the mockery's sake) and in the film, the 'Lola' representation of Carol was fragmented, and shattered through a lot of masking shots: a total degradation of her femininity. The rather surrealistic circus events that framed the story helped in our understanding of how Lola's life was being sneered at by the audience, how she became the object of desire and also the object of disgust. And as being one of the product of the cinema of quality era, the film also include some breathtaking costume design, and really exquisite settings. A thoughtful analysis of the feminine as a femme fatale, and a total masterpiece with lots of self-reflexivity of the film as cinema.
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Format: DVD
If Lola Montes were alive today I'm sure she would be a tabloid sensation or perhaps a reality television star famous for her notoriety. Born Eliza Gilbert, she reinvented herself during the late 1800s and tried her hand at singing, acting and dancing - failing miserably at all three. What she lacked in talent, however, she more than made up for in sex appeal. Rumours swirled around her about various lovers and Bavaria's Ludwig I bestowed upon her the title of Countess of Landsfeld. She challenged her critics to duels and dared to smoke in public.

In short, Montes led a pretty exciting life ripe for cinematic treatment. Director Max Ophuls took up the challenge in what would be his last film and the only one in colour and Cinemascope. When Lola Montes was released in 1955, the critics savaged it causing the film's producers to panic and re-edit it. The film did have its admirers, chief among them filmmaker Francois Truffaut and critic Andrew Sarris. By 2008, Lola Montes was restored to Ophuls' original intentions and digitally remastered to its original glory, preserving its vibrant colour scheme.

The first disc includes an audio commentary by film scholar Susan White, author of The Cinema of Max Ophuls. She states that Lola Montes is not a film for everyone because of the unusual attention to style. She discusses the odd casting of Martine Carol and what she brought to the film. White does an excellent job of analyzing the film's style and what it means in relation to the characters and the story. She also sheds light on the film's rocky production. This is a very informative track full of insight into the film and the people that made it.
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