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Monday, April 20, 2009

LA RONDE (1950)

The great Max Ophüls made a triumphant post-WWII return to Europe with this carnal ‘tastings’ menu of a pic, based on the notorious Arthur Schnitzler play from fin de siécle Vienna. The plot goes thusly; ‘A’ screws ‘B’; ‘B’ screws ‘C’; ‘C’ screws ‘D’; and so on until the tenth match up when ‘J’ screws ‘A.’ We’ve come full circle: La Ronde. In Ophüls’ hands, there’s not a sordid moment to love’s call and the period flavor is wonderfully accented with indelible perfs (Simon Signoret, Daniel Gélin, Simon Simone, Gérard Philipe, Danielle Darrieux, et al, what a cast!!), the surest directorial finesse imaginable & the lightest of Brechtian touches as our guide (Anton Walbrook, a stand-in for Max O. in a role invented for the pic) keeps all the characters moving along at a clip. The difference between a serial cynic like Schnitzler & a serial romantic like Ophüls closely parallels what many commentators have noted in the attitudes of Mozart & his COSÌ FAN TUTTE librettist, Lorenzo Da Ponte. Da Ponte holds that ultimately all love is false; but Mozart’s music contradicts him, indeed upstages him, by positing all love, no matter how fleeting or misdirected as the real thing. Max Ophüls was the real thing, too. Heavenly stuff, and tremendous fun.

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