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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 2.55:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • French DTS-HD 3.0 Stereo
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • 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

Lola Montes

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Max Ophuls
Starring: Martine Carol, Peter Ustinov, Anton Walbrook, Will Quadflieg, Oskar Werner, Ivan Desny, Henry Guisol
1955 | 115 Minutes | Licensor: Les Films du Jeudi

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #503
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: February 16, 2010
Review Date: February 7, 2010

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SYNOPSIS

Lola Montès is a visually ravishing, narratively daring dramatization of the life of the notorious courtesan and showgirl, played by Martine Carol. With his customary cinematographic flourish and, for the first time, vibrant color, Max Ophuls charts Montès's scandalous past through the bombastic ringmaster (Peter Ustinov) of the American circus where she ends up performing. Ophuls's final film, Lola Montès is at once a magnificent romantic melodrama, a meditation on the lurid fascination with celebrity, and a meticulous, one-of-a-kind movie spectacle.

Forum members rate this film 7.8/10

 

Discuss the film and Blu-ray here   


PICTURE

Max Ophuls’ Lola Montès was a critical and financial disaster upon its initial release back in 1955. The film was quickly cut down by the film’s producers in the hopes recouping their investment, the film’s running time shrinking from 114-minutes to 91-minutes. In 1966 producer Pierre Braunberger bought the rights to the film and after finding all of the elements he could he reconstructed the film to 110-minutes, presenting it as the director’s cut, though it still wasn’t Ophuls’ intended vision, despite Braunberger’s best efforts.

In 2008 a new restoration was done, correcting the soundtrack, colours, restoring further sequences, and editing the film closer to Ophuls’ intentions based on his notes. For their release on Blu-ray (and DVD) Criterion presents this version of the film, running 114-minutes, in Ophuls’ preferred aspect ratio of 2.55:1 on this dual-layer Blu-ray disc. The transfer is presented in 1080p/24hz.

Similar to the DVD release the picture here is fairly solid, but the source materials do limit it in some ways. The DVD presented issues with noise in the blacks and reds throughout the film but that’s all cleared up here in this transfer. It’s much cleaner with smoother lines and no noticeable artifacts. Blacks still look a little washed, similar to the DVD, but colours overall are bright and vivid, with excellent saturation. Film grain is a bit more prominent here and looks natural, never looking like noise.

Unfortunately detail isn’t as high as one would probably hope, the image looking a touch soft, even blurry, in sequences. This more than likely is an issue with the source materials and nothing to do with the transfer. The print condition otherwise is good, presenting a minimal amount of marks or damage, looking as though the film has been thoroughly cleaned up.

Again it has some problems but considering the history of the film this comes of looking quite good.

7/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

Ophuls was forced to use a stereo soundtrack for the film against his wishes, similar to shooting the film in colour. The audio was taken from a 4-track magnetic track, which has channels for the front left, right, and center speakers, as well as another for surround. Since the surround track was usually of poor quality filmmakers rarely used it as is the case here. In the end Criterion gives us a lossless 3.0 DTS-HD Master Audio track that sticks to the fronts.

When it comes to sound I’ll be honest that I’m not the best at pointing out the little intricacies between different types of sound tracks, though I’ve always been pleasantly surprised by the differences between a lossy Dolby Digital format and a lossless one. Here I can’t say I detected much of a difference between the DVD’s Dolby Digital track and what’s found here.

Similar to the DVD it presents decent music with excellent volume and range with no distortion. Despite the decent strength of the music everything else about the track is still a touch weak, though dialogue is still clear and intelligible. There’s movement between the speakers and placement of voices sound natural based on the location of a speaking character on screen.

It’s certainly suits the film, though it’s limited, and I’m sure this is inherent in the source.

6/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Criterion’s Blu-ray release (like its 2-disc DVD counterpart) is slim on supplements, though they are decent overall.

First up is an audio commentary by Max Ophuls scholar Susan White. Though it’s apparent she’s reading from notes, which can make it a touch dry at times, it’s a fairly decent track. On top of talking about the film itself, its themes, its title character (though disappointingly never stating what is fact or fiction instead suggesting we read a bio on Lola,) and defending Martine Carol’s performance, she also covers the history of the film, its initial reception, its various versions, and production problems (and if I understood her correctly she seemed to suggest this still isn’t the complete version since some elements were beyond repair.) She covers a lot of technical details, such as how certain tracking shots were done, the soundtrack, and notes on the aspect ratio. Overall it was informative and worth listening to.

The remaining supplements are found under the “Supplements” section of the fly-out menu.

First up is an episode from the French program Cinéastes de notre temps. Running 53-minutes it examines Max Ophuls and his films, shot at a circus and gathering interviews with various people who have worked with him. It’s a decent piece, and as far as I can tell it’s complete (there’s no obvious edits,) though maybe focuses too much on his use of the camera. While it was amusing listening to a camera man express the frustrations he experienced setting up the cameras and moving them in unconventional ways, pretty much calling Ophuls a madman, a good half of the feature covers this and after a bit it does feel repetitive, especially about tracking shots. Past that, though, it gathers interviews with the various actors that worked with Ophuls, collecting their memories and opinions of him (culminating with a montage of sorts) and then moves on to Lola Montès with Martine Carol and Peter Ustinov recalling their experience with the man on the set, and also recalling an amusing anecdote where he was able to one scene in German and then French perfectly, but then doing the scene in English called for 24 takes. Again, parts of it felt repetitive but it’s a decent feature worth viewing, offering a wealth of information on the man and his techniques.

Next is a 2009 32-minute documentary by Marcel Ophuls (son of Max Ophuls) called Max by Marcel. Made up of a new interview with Marcel and then various archival interviews (some of which come from the Cinéastes de notre temps episode found on this disc) it covers some of the various projects that were worked on though never came to be between Madame de… and Lola Montès and then moves on to Lola Montès. Through the interviews the film’s production is thoroughly covered (revealing a few little things I wasn’t completely aware of, like the fact the producers had mafia ties, or Ophuls thought Carol was particularly awful in the lead role) all the way up to its disastrous release. Marcel then talks about his father’s intentions for the film and the (then) new restoration of the film. You can tell that for Marcel the road to the restored version Lola Montès was a long, frustrating one but, he seems happy, calling the whole journey a “wonderful victory over time and imbeciles.” Another excellent feature.

Next up is a short 1-minute clip that appeared on French television in 1958 (though there’s no explanation given as to why) showing Martine Carol hair tests. This silent montage shows some of the various hair styles that Carol wore throughout the film. Somewhat interesting, though a somewhat bizarre inclusion I felt.

The supplements then closes with Rialto’s rerelease trailer for the film.

The included booklet has a nice, lengthy essay by Gary Giddens, covering the film, the actual Lola Montez, Ophuls’ representation of her, and the film’s reception. Also included is a rather lengthy note on the restoration and transfer, running a couple of pages, longer than Criterion’s usual notes on their transfers. The film actually opens with its own notes on the restoration but the booklet presents more detailed information.

This is my first time with the film, and though I’m sure if I tried I could track down the other versions of the film, it would have been interesting to have some sort of video presentation on the different versions. Also, I would have liked more on the finished restoration. Otherwise it’s a decent if not loaded edition. Some repetitive material but overall everything is worth going through.

7/10

CLOSING

A slim but lovely release. The picture quality has some issues because of the source elements, namely it never looks altogether that sharp, but the high-def transfer is still quite clean and presents beautifully rendered colours. My only real complaint is a little more on the various versions of the film and/or its restoration would have been a nice addition, but what has been included is of decent quality. Overall a nice treat and it comes with a strong recommendation.


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