Combustible Celluloid
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With: Anton Walbrook, Simone Signoret, Serge Reggiani, Simone Simon, Daniel Gélin, Danielle Darrieux, Fernand Gravey, Odette Joyeux, Jean-Louis Barrault, Isa Miranda, Gérard Philipe
Written by: Max Ophüls, Louis Ducreux, Kurt Feltz, Jacques Natanson, based on a play by Arthur Schnitzler
Directed by: Max Ophüls
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Language: French, with English subtitles
Running Time: 93
Date: 09/27/1950

La Ronde (1950)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Delicious Circle

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Though Max Ophuls worked in no less than five countries during his career, most agree that his greatest period is the final years, when he returned to France after leaving Hollywood. He began with La Ronde (1950), which means "circle," for his most characteristic movie (a good one to start with for beginners). It's based on a play by Arthur Schnitzler, who also wrote the novel upon which Eyes Wide Shut is based. In La Ronde, we follow a group of characters beginning with a prostitute who sleeps with a soldier. The soldier meets a girl at a dance. Then she falls for someone else. The he meets another woman. On and on, until we reach the prostitute again. Anton Walbrook (The Red Shoes) plays the narrator and the guiding hand of fate, who works at a carousel which becomes the centerpiece of the movie. Ophuls' gliding camera is smooth as silk, and its catlike grace gives rise to a palpable eroticism, especially in the scenes with Simone Simon as a French maid. Simone Signoret also stars. The film was actually nominated for two Oscars (writing and set design)!

DVD Details: At last! The Criterion Collection has released this and two other Ophuls films, Le Plaisir and The Earrings of Madame de... in gorgeous new black-and-white transfers. The La Ronde disc comes with an audio commentary by Ophuls scholar Susan White (sadly, kind of dry), an interview with Marcel Ophuls (Max's son), an interview with actor Daniel Gélin, an interview with expert Alan Williams, and correspondence between Laurence Olivier and original playwright Arthur Schnitzler. Critic Terrence Rafferty provides the excellent liner notes.

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