A Few Words About A few words about...™ Lola Montes -- in Blu-ray

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Robert Harris, Jan 30, 2010.

  1. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    Lola Montes was a troubled 1955 production. It was the final film directed by the brilliant Max Ophuls, who's previous work, The Earring of Madame de... is one of my personal favorites.

    An extremely technical director, best known for his constantly moving camera in a era when cameras were generally locked down, Ophuls made a bold move. Going directly from the classic 1.37:1 aspect ratio, black & white cinematography and monaural audio in Madame de... to 2.55:1 scope, Eastman Color and 4-track magnetic stereo in Lola Montes, one can imagine that his technological hands were more than full.

    The film starred Martine Carol in the title role, an actress popular in France for far more frivolous roles. Its premiere left 1955 audiences unprepared and apparently unwilling to take on a film that jumped back and forth in time, and was not a simple bit of colored cinematic froth.

    The background story of Lola Montes is all about filmmaking, cinema history, unavailability and sizzle. The greatest problem has been that for the past half century no one has been able to see it. Further, the film's reputation, outside of those "in the know," has been based not upon reality, but upon reports of public sentiment at the time of release and of later emasculated cuts of the film.

    The sizzle here, and this is true and accurate sizzle as opposed to the stuff of publicists like any purported "restoration" of Scorsese's Gangs of New York for Blu-ray, begins with a film that failed at the box-office, was shot in three versions, English, French and German, was cut from an original running time of 114 minutes, to a French version running 110 and later to only 90 minutes.

    Very little (or none) of the filmmaker's intent survived later versions.

    In the late '60s the film was restored to it's 110 minute version by new owners which was a major step in the right direction.

    The good news is that with a new digital toolbox, and funding from the Thomson Foundation, all surviving film elements were brought to Technicolor in Burbank, where images were harvested, and meticulous digital reconstruction and restoration were performed. Likewise, the many audio elements were digitally harvested, and cobbled together to create a new, clean and cohesive recreation of the original stereo mix. I use the term "cobbled" here not as a derogatory term, but for accuracy and flavor. Bits and pieces were apparently gathered as needed from varying disparate elements to film in holes toward a meticulous final product.

    I'm not certain that one should jump into Lola Montes without a bit of background into its progenitors. To that end, I would highly suggest that one begin with viewings (rentals, if necessary) of La Ronde (1950) and Le Plaisir (1952), and then move on (and I suggest purchase) of The Earrings of Madame de... (1953)

    You're then at least partially prepared for what many consider to be one of the wonders of the cinema -- Lola Montes.

    The fact that it's now available on Blu-ray from Criterion (the other three suggested titles are also available from Criterion, but in standard definition), makes it finally available to the masses after 55 years wasting away in tattered bits and pieces and in obscurity.

    As the digital restoration was harvested from a myriad of elements of different qualities and generations, the final result is not transparent to the original, but in taking advantage of our current technologies, it brings us very close to where one would wish to be. That needs to be said, as nitpicking of occasional problems serves no purpose. We're exceedingly lucky to have what we have.

    As a final note, I'd love to see Ophuls' 1948 Letter From an Unknown Woman on Blu-ray. It may currently be controlled by Viacom, which could place it on the Paramount label.

    Very Highly Recommended.

    RAH
     
  2. ReggieW

    ReggieW Screenwriter

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    Thanks for your review Mr. Harris.

    I should also add (for those interested in Ophuls in Hollywood) that Letter from an Unknown Woman as well as Caught and The Reckless Moment are available on dvd (not blu-ray) in the UK from Second Sight in very respectable editions (commentaries, interviews, etc;). It's very disappointing that his American films are not available Stateside with no pending release in sight. I recently purchased all three from Moviemail UK and look forward to watching them soon.

    Lola Montes will be a welcome addition to my collection.
     
  3. Bob_L

    Bob_L Supporting Actor

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    FYI, "The Earrings of Madame de..." is now available on Netflix's Watch Instantly.
     
  4. felipenor

    felipenor Stunt Coordinator

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    Is it true that Criterion will no longer use digipack on its blu-ray titles? Why's that?
     
  5. Craig S

    Craig S Producer
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    Criterion dropped the digipack for BluRay several months ago. I believe it was in response to customer feedback indicating a preference for more substantial and protective packaging.
     
  6. felipenor

    felipenor Stunt Coordinator

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    Oh... that's a shame. I loved digipacks so much. They look all so pretty.

    Did Criterion drop the digipacks for dvd as well?
     
  7. Simon Howson

    Simon Howson Screenwriter

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    This is a must buy for me! And I'm glad I live at a time when there are restoration tools that could make such a reconstruction possible.
     
  8. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer
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    The DVD release of Lola Montes is a digipack with a slipcase (I'll begin working on it this afternoon). The other two Criterion DVD releases due on February 16th (Revanche, Hunger) are in regular Amray cases.
     
  9. Brandon Conway

    Brandon Conway captveg

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    Personally, I've never liked digipacks, and I'm glad to see the Criterion Blu-rays in their custom clear amaray-esque cases. Very clean, very uniform.
     
  10. felipenor

    felipenor Stunt Coordinator

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    I'm so happy to hear that.
     
  11. felipenor

    felipenor Stunt Coordinator

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    That's exactly the problem for me. The amaray cases are just so uniform... The Criterion digipacks always looked like something special that was created specifically for that movie. True collector's items.
     
  12. Craig S

    Craig S Producer
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    Not sure if I understand yuor objection to the switch. The new Criterion BluRay plastic cases use the exact same unique art as the digipacks did. The Blu digipacks themselves were just as uniform as the Amarays - they all had the exact same dimensions. I know this becuase just this past weekend I received my replacement Amarays from Criterion for the 1st 9 Blu releases and the old digipacks are now all stacked up on a shelf.
     
  13. Patrick Mason

    Patrick Mason Stunt Coordinator
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    I'll second this, the transfers for all three films are first rate. Their DVD edition of Lola Montes was also quite good, but I am incredibly excited to own such a beautiful film in a Criterion Blu-ray edition.
     

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