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France 1950
Directed by
Max Ophuls
89 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

Ronde, La

La Ronde is a beautifully crafted film although its self-conscious artifice is also the aspect which will limit its appeal. With Ophuls’ favourite setting – that of the late 19th century European upper class society, the so-called Belle Epoque  - and its carefully stage-mannered style, marvellously initiated with a complex opening sequence in which in one unbroken shot a Master of Ceremonies (Anton Walbrook) takes us from the interior of a movie studio to the simulated streets of Vienna it is a major statement of the director’s cinematic aesthetic.

Using the metaphor of a carousel as his central conceit Ophuls gives us a series of bitter-sweet overlapping vignettes depicting the pleasures and doleurs of love (ironically, Ophuls’ source, a play, 'Reigen', by Arthur Schnitzler, dealt with the transmission of venereal disease, obliquely alluded to here with Simone Signoret’s street prostitute who appears as the first character in the main story).

With a bevy of stars of the time including Signoret, Simone Simon, Danielle Darrieux and Jean-Louis Barrault, Ophuls’ characteristically fluid camerawork, provided by Christian Matras who would also film Ophul’s Madame de…. (1953) that chimes perfectly with Oscar Strauss’s elegant score there is much to be enjoyed here although the episodic structure and self-consciously mannered style (including a couple of amusing  references to the the fact that we are watching a film)  cast us into a purely observational role without any real emotional engagement.

FYI: Viennese playwright and novelist Arthur Schnitzler’s work which often dealt with sex has been a rich source for filmmakers including for Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

DVD Extras: An interview with Ophuls Scholar, Alan Williams; Full Circle – The two versions of Max Ophul’s La Ronde; Audio Commentary by Anna Dzenis and Rick Thomson, La Trobe University; The Circle Game – Max Ophuls and La Ronde, an insert essay by Dr Adrian Danks, RMIT University.

Available from: Madman




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