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Scarlet, No Empress

University of California Press
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Alongside the wonders of the film itself, Criterion’s edition of the restored Lola Montès (1955) offers unusually rewarding extras. They include the 1965 edition of Cinéastes de notre temps from French television, in which Martine Carol is one of the many technicians and actors to pay tribute to Ophuls, who died in 1957. She recalls a director whose brilliance and charm had helped her out in the starring role which was “not really a part for me” and who had enabled her to extend herself beyond anything she had previously attempted. Her warmth, ten years after the event, is all the more remarkable because the film’s reception had been just as disastrous for her as it was for its creator. Fifty years on, the reassessment of Lola Montès as a manifest of the genius of Ophuls has not been, and I think could not be, echoed in acclaim for a performance that seldom rises much above—and does not consistently reach—adequacy. The critical question is how far its character and shortcomings are absorbed into the themes and textures of the movie, how far they contribute to or detract from its achievement.

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