Friday, June 18, 2010

La Ronde (1950)

It's a long time since I reviewed a DVD that LoveFilm had sent me. This is partly indolence and partly because I can have an embarrassing taste in films (the recent remake of Lassie is not a patch on the original Lassie Come Home). So let's write about La Ronde.

This is not a film I knew, but my mother wanted to see it because she thought she had seen it with my father in a Southsea cinema some 60 years ago. As it turned out, it was probably not La Ronde they saw. But this was a fortunate mistake for me because it is a very interesting film.

La Ronde was made in 1950 by Max Ophuls, based on a play by Arthur Schnitzler. As Wikipedia helpfully explains:
It tells a series of stories about love affairs or illicit meetings involving a prostitute, a soldier, a chambermaid, her employer's son, a married woman, her husband, a young girl, a poet, an actress and a count. At the end of each encounter, one of the partners forms a liaison with another person, and so on.
It stars Anton Walbrook as the worldly "Meneur de Jeu", who presents the action of the film to the viewer, also turning up in some scenes in minor roles. He is also in charge of the roundabout - ronde - that is both a physical presence on screen and a metaphor for the film's action.

The film is elegant and witty. When one of the men is unable to perform in bed, the roundabout breaks down and Walbrook has to mend it.

What, I suspect, most interests the theorists is that this is a film that makes no effort to hide the fact that it is a film. When we first meet Walbrook he is strolling around on what first looks like a stage set and then a film set.

And when the action threatens to get too spicy, a censor appears on screen to measure a loop of film and snip it off.

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