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78 Madame de... 
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Joined: Wed Mar 04, 2009 7:44 pm
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Post Re: 78 Madame de...
Max Ophuls' final film, Lola Montes, is airing on Sunday on TCM. Its #273 on this list.

here is a review from amazon:

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

Fri Jan 22, 2010 9:12 pm
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Joined: Sun Mar 01, 2009 9:17 pm
Posts: 521
Post Re: 78 Madame de...
First, I'm not sure why the above post is in this thread since it is a completely different movie.

Second, the official title of the film is The Earrings of Madame de..., I'm pretty sure that theyshootpictures.com had it wrong.

The Earrings of Madame de...

I know that this was based on a novel, but I have to point out that this is a terrible fucking title. Just give her a name and save us all from the awkwardness of including an ellipsis when writing about it and of explaining it in conversation. I'm just going to call it The General's Retarded Wife, because it's more accurate.

This was a strange one for me. It was the first film off the top 100 that I just straight up didn't like. I don't feel like giving a plot summary, so I'll just say this: The General's Retarded Wife is basically Madame Bovary except not ironic and her husband is awesome.

However, since my problems with the film have to do with the story, I'll get all of the technical stuff out of the way first. Max Ophuls is the master of the track shot. The takes aren't super long, but they are lilting and whimsical. It's a great presentation and it creates just the right tone. It's sort of like being in Disneyland; its a wonderful environment you can lose yourself in, the only problem is all of the fat people with strollers. Except in this case the fat people with strollers are the story.

I had one complaint with the editing. When Louise and Donati are supposed to be falling in love, we are treated to a series of shots of them dancing at balls. The problem is that it is difficult to tell the difference between each ball, especially when the whole point is that time is passing in between. This happens a few other times. Without warning, the film will just skip 2 weeks without telling you. At the end, the jeweler mentions that it has been 2 years since the beginning of the film. How the fuck did that happen?

The film is done in 4:3. Which sucked. But before I list it as a detractor, does anyone know why this was used? I'm not an expert on aspect ratios, but it felt out of place to me.

The actors are all very good. I especially enjoyed Charles Boyer, who played the general. In my opinion, he steals the show.

The music works in harmony with the cinematography. Almost every scene is accompanied by a waltzy soundtrack. It did get a little annoying at times, but this constant tone made the ending work so much better. After the general kills Donati, the only way we know for sure that both he and Louise (who dies of being melodramatic, apparently) are dead is through the music. The waltz continues to the final chord, but there is a chorus of foreboding horns that emphasize the "what the fuck" state of mind you will surely be in. Its a bit like the final notes of Copeland's Billy the Kid; triumphant and wrong.

Anyways... The General's Retarded Wife is about a general with a retarded wife. In the end, he frees himself of her by dueling her love interest. The reason why I don't take the romance plot line seriously is because there is no passion. It is just another instance where we don't see any passion between the "lovers" and therefore cannot believe in them. All they do is dance together and look into each other's eyes. They have no other physical contact. Even when they meet secretly in the forest, there is no intimacy. Going back to Madame Bovary, this scene reminded me of when the novel's titular character meets her love interest and spends the day banging the shit out of him. The scene in the movie is just a neutered version of this.

At least half of the movie is just Louise moping around. Seriously, she spends five weeks touring Italian lake country. She can't be bothered to appreciate any of it because she misses her glorified dance partner.

Her husband, the general, knows all about her romance. He lets it play out until he discovers that for some unknown reason, she has fallen in love. Then he interferes. Its too bad that his mistress was bad at gambling, we could have been spared all of this. I like to think that this film is really a story about him winning his freedom from melodramatic bullshit. It's a little hard to believe that this story was supposed to be taken seriously. And yet I keep reading film essays praising it's depiction of romance.

If you like this movie for reasons not related to the general's manly awesomeness, you're a pansy.


Sun Jul 01, 2012 5:17 am
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