Lola Montes is Max Ophuls’ final film, and his only one in color. It’s also the last film by Ophuls remaining for me on the list, and it’s been a while since I’ve seen one of his movies, so I was particularly foggy about how to approach it. Thankfully, while Ophuls is still a French director, he is much more mainstream and conventional than you would think of a “French director”. Aside from being in French, the film could easily have passed for an American-made production, both in how it was made and the story in which it tells, which I’ll get to soon.
The film uses the familiar narrative device of having the main character in a certain position at the start, and remembers their past life as a whole for us the viewer. Some may view this framing device as nothing but a cheap storytelling trick, but to me such devices exist and become standards because they work, so they can hardly be faulted when they are used. My qualm with such a device is that it is often used to help tell the story of an individual character’s life, when there is very little about said life that makes it a story worth remembering. It was my main problem with Colonel Blimp, and it was my main problem here as well. The story is essentially about Lola Montes and her various affairs with men of all castes and classes, and that’s pretty much it. It was hard for me to keep my interest with this one, but it was an excellently made film, so I was able to use that to get me through some of the harder parts.
This is another one that has multiple versions floating around. There’s the theatrical cut, which was butchered from Ophuls’ original vision thanks to pressure and feedback, a partially-restored 1968 version, and the most recent 2008 completely restored cut, which follows Ophuls’ vision for the film according to his wishes. I saw this 2008 version, and from what I’ve heard of the other versions, I’m glad this is the one I saw; the other versions completely reorder the film to remove the back-and-forth jumping through past and present, and while that may sound like a good thing on paper, in practice it could’ve led to an incredibly boring and listlessly told film. It’s the back-and-forth chronology that continually gives the occasional push to keep the story going, but unfortunately, that’s pretty much the only thing keeping this story going. I gave it points for its production value, but pretty much nothing else; if you’re a fan of soapy dramas, love affairs, and the consequences tied to them, this might have something for you, but if you’re looking for a positively entertaining movie, you might be better off looking somewhere else.
Arbitrary Rating: 6/10