Sunday, October 26, 2008

Journal Response 1 - "Construction Zone"

Lola Montès is a great example of how an epic film with an extravagant budget can be overlooked by the mainstream audience. Some have proclaimed it the greatest film ever made, yet, I had never heard of it until reading this article. The film tells the story of Lola Montès, an aging dancer who is known more for her escapades with famous men than for her choreography skills. The director, Max Ophüls, was well known for his lavish sets and use of smooth crane and dolly shots. Ophüls’ former work had been in black and white; Lola Montès was his first color feature and was shot in Cinemascope. These were only a couple of the elements that added to the complexity of the project. Another was language; the film was shot with German, French, and English speaking. The film’s premiere in France caused riots, much in the same way as Carolee Schneemann’s Fuses. The negative response of the audience led to heavy re-editing of the film and its chronology. A storyline that originally showed Lola’s life through the use of flashbacks was cut and reordered. Ophüls work was butchered at the hands of his production company with the hope that it would prove to be a success at the box office. Each release did no better than the last. Max Ophüls died of a heart attack after the third release of the film in 1957. One other attempt was made at restoring Lola Montès to its former glory in 1968, but some footage was still missing. The recently restored version follows the original vision of the director and was overseen by his son, Marcel Ophüls. It showed at the New York Film Festival this year, setting a record for the most screenings of one film in the festival's history; three times.

The article mentions Ophüls’ use of dangling ropes in his shots, which was one of the ways he managed to break up the composition of the frame. Props, curtains, and filters were used to bring the story and set to life. Each era of Lola’s life is set apart from the others by its colors. This manipulation of color brings The Bear Garden to mind, specifically the powerful emotions that Andrea Leuteneker portrays throughout the film using yellow, red, and blue. Lola Montès proves that even a film by a well known director that has a large budget can involve experimental technique, but that it won’t necessarily contribute to its success. The restoration of the film gives it another chance at acceptance; hopefully the audience won’t be as brutal this time around.

The article can be found here

1 comment:

Carl Bogner said...

Mariella - This is great. Well done. Your engagement with the article and your curiosity about the topic is evident in your detailing, your consideration of details, your fluid relating of Ophuls and his work to work encountered in class. Thanks for the investment here.

Not sure if new restoration has made it to DVD yet, but would love to see this on the screen someday. Thanks for restoring my interest.