Set in 19th century Vienna, La Ronde charts the love lives of a series of inter-related characters whose complex and frequently very brief relationships (our tale begins with a prostitute trying to give a soldier a freebie) eventually join them all together to create a loop mirroring the roundabout (La Ronde) which our narrator (Anton Walbrook in ever so slightly slimy mode) and constant companion through the film, controls.

For a film made in 1950 it boasts an impressively modern attitude to relationships with characters changing bedfellows considerably more often than they change their socks...to get away with a film like this in a post AIDS generation La Ronde would pretty much have to be a morality tale with all the associated misery (the nearest modern equivalent would be something like Your Friends And Neighbours, though that is an unfair comparison as La Ronde is vastly more entertaining), but here instead we find we have a merry little set of stories going nowhere in particular.

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The roundabout becomes an oft re-visited metaphor for the nature of love, the relationships of the characters, their sexual prowess (the roundabout breaks down in dramatic style when one of the characters is appalled to find himself temporarily impotent) and even the geographical locations of their interlinking sex lives, with the narrator acting as a strangely omnipresent observer.

Boasting a level of coincidence you'd expect of Thomas Hardy or Robert Altman, La Ronde just about gets away with the plot device especially as the film does not try to develop characters, more just observe them as they leap from bed to bed. As you'd expect from Ophüls though it's all done in great style with lots of beautiful costumes and a plethora of lavish set and lighting designs to reflect the varied strata the characters movie in. There are also some nice little tricks such as the narrator's on-screen splicing together of the film and the long and elaborate opening and closing shots.

As a curiously modern but not particularly emotionally charged curio, the film is worth seeing for novelty alone. Though a pleasant enough little journey, it's ultimately like much of the sex between the various characters - fun but unsatisfying.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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The love lives of a series of inter-related characters.
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Director: Max Ophuls

Writer: Louis Ducreux, Kurt Feltz, Jacques Natanson, Max Ophuls, based on the play Reigen by Arthur Schnitzler

Starring: Anton Walbrook, Simone Signoret, Serge Reggiani, Simone Simon, Daniel Gélin, Danielle Darrieux, Fernand Gravey, Odette Joyeux, Jean-Louis Barrault, Isa Miranda, Gérard Philipe

Year: 1950

Runtime: 92 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: France

Festivals:

EIFF 2000

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