La Ronde (Directors Suite) (1950)

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Released 13-Oct-2010

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Audio Commentary-by Anna Dzenis & Rick Thompson, lecturers at La Trobe Uni.
Featurette-Interview with Ophuls scholar Alan Williams
Featurette-Full Circle: The two versions of Max Ophuls' La Ronde
Booklet-The Circle Game: Max Ophuls and La Ronde, by Dr Adrian Danks
Trailer-Four Directors Suite trailers
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1950
Running Time 88:56
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Max Ophüls
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring Anton Walbrook
Simone Signoret
Serge Reggiani
Simone Simon
Daniel Gélin
Danielle Darrieux
Fernand Gravey
Odette Joyeux
Jean-Louis Barrault
Isa Miranda
Gérard Philipe
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $34.95 Music Oscar Straus


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame French Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English Alternate Subtitles
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

     La Ronde represents a turning point in Max Ophüls’ film career. It was his first film in France after spending ten years in Hollywood and it turned out to be his most successful film at the box office. The film has many familiar Ophüls motifs such as strong, yet flawed women characters, adulterous love, fluid camera movement and a setting around the turn of the 20th century in Vienna (Ophüls' final film in the Hollywood system and his most commonly known and lauded film, Letter from an Unknown Woman was also set in Vienna in the same time period as La Ronde).

     The plot of the film, like the title, is circular (i.e., the film begins and ends at the same point) and according to moviediva goes something like thus: La Ronde consists of 10 scenes between men and women, and each ends with one partner encountering a new one; a carousel representing the turning circle of desire. To the tune of Oskar Straus' infectious waltz, Ophüls' fluid camera threads through an opulent world of cafes, boudoirs, and misty streets in the Vienna of 1900, as each character repeats the same words and gestures with a different partner, deceiving and deceived.

     Arthur Schnitzler's play, Reigen was never intended for public performance. His tale of sexual love and deceit were written for private distribution; he knew that they were too obscene to be staged in turn-of-the-century Vienna. A contemporary of Freud, he suggested that we fall in love not with a person, but with our idea of a person. Onto the face of our partner, we project our own desires. Schnitzler's dramas depend on the crisis in the life of two people; an inevitable passing from old relationships to new. A romance may last only briefly; the break must come when one of the partners desire it, however faintly. Schnitzler's world, and director Max Ophüls', is a man's world, where love brings women unhappiness in one form or another. But, as Ashley Dukes wrote in an introduction to the play almost 70 years ago: "The misogynist is a lesser enemy of feminism than the philanderer. He is only the mouthpiece of ideas, not the arbiter of fates."

     Max Ophüls was born in Germany and changed his name to spare his well-to-do Jewish family shame when he became an actor. His acting success was mediocre, but he became a well-known director of plays, and then films. Soon after a film version of Arthur Schnitzler's Liebelei became a success in Germany, the burning of the Reichstag forced Ophüls into exile in France. He made a number of films there but was forced to flee once again, eventually arriving in Hollywood. There he waited 6 frustrating years to make a film, but then made 4 major films in quick succession; flops at the time, but now highly regarded, including Letter from an Unknown Woman starring Joan Fontaine and Louis Jourdan. In 1949, he returned to France, where he had his greatest successes, La Ronde, Le Plaisir, The Earrings of Mme. De... and Lola Montes. The last film had an enormous budget and aroused great critical interest, but was butchered in the editing room. It was a commercial failure and Ophüls died shortly afterwards at the age of 55.

     The wry Anton Walbrook plays the narrator, Ophüls' main addition to the play, who serves as the director's alter-ego and the intermediary between each couple. He repairs the carousel when it breaks down and is seen editing the film when it gets too steamy; a humorous commentary on Ophüls' problems in the US with the Production Code. La Ronde's cast consists of the most famous French actors of the day. The female characters have greater access to Walbrook's ringmaster, perhaps emphasizing their relatively greater self-awareness. But, both men and women are trapped in the merry-go-round of desire, gender roles and social status. The person initiating each sexual encounter will say anything in order to get a lover into bed-- beg, flatter, cajole--and afterwards the former object of passion is instantly forgotten. Perhaps there is even a bit of distaste for one's weakness in succumbing to such a base desire. This casual interchange of partners was, of course, also a metaphor for the transmission of venereal disease. Obsession without love, pleasure without love, love without reciprocation, and lies, lies, lies! The Vienna of 1900 was a reality for the Arthur Schnitzler, but for Ophüls and for us, this Vienna is dreamlike and unreal. In the play, the Count says to the Actress, "Happiness? There is no such thing, Madame. It's the very things that people talk about most that don't exist...for instance, love. That's one of them."

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Transfer Quality

Video

     The video transfer is a direct port of the same transfer used for the Region 1 United States Criterion Collection release of La Ronde. The aspect ratio is 1:33:1 full-frame. As per the Region 1 transfer, the picture is picture-boxed to avoid overscan on traditional cathode ray tube televisions. This means that on current digital widescreen televisions there will be a slight border around the main image.

     The main presentation takes up approximately half the disc space of a dual-layered DVD9 (i.e., 3.8 gb out of 7.68 gb in total). The average bitrate is standard for DVD at 5.87 m/b per sec (The Criterion Region 1 transfer has a higher bitrate at 7.47 m/b per sec). The video transfer requires further restoration to do it justice as there is low level noise evident here as well as contrast flickering throughout. The black-and-white image is slightly dull overall. Film artefacts are present also, mainly as lines across the screen, however, these are infrequent thankfully.

     Subtitles are available in default white or alternative yellow.

     The RSDL change is placed in between the main presentation and the two main extras on the DVD (i.e. the interview with scholar Alan Williams and the comparison of the two cuts of the film).

Video Ratings Summary
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Audio

     The soundtrack is also of average quality. Oscar Straus' music accompaniment is memorable however for the many waltz themes used to emphasise the circular theme of the movie.

     The French and English audio commentary tracks are both encoded in Dolby Digital 2.0 at 224 kbps.

     Dialogue is mainly clear. The main soundtrack in French does contain low level hiss in the background and dialogue has been dubbed here so audio synchronisation is average in comparison to other films of the era. Oscar Straus' score features any waltzes, as stated previously. The score can be over-emphasised at times, sounding much louder than the main dialogue.

     There is no surround channel usage as the main soundtrack is in mono. The subwoofer is not utilised either.

Audio Ratings Summary
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Extras

Audio commentary by Anna Dzenis, Lecturer in Cinema Studies, La Trobe University & Rick Thompson, Senior Lecturer in Cinema Studies, La Trobe University

     The audio commentary is accessible from the setup menu, not the extras menu. In comparison to the audio commentary by Susan White on the Region 1 Criterion Collection release, this commentary by Anna Dzenis and Rick Thompson is more scene-specific than scholarly. There is less discussion of Max Ophüls' film career and more discussion on the circumstances which led to this film and the significance of the action of main characters in certain scenes. Overall, the commentary is useful to those of you who prefer a deeper analysis of the main plot of a film.

Interview with Ophuls scholar Alan Williams (34:08)

     This interview is the same interview found on the Region 1 Criterion Collection US release and the Region 2 Second Sight United Kingdom release. Alan Williams discusses Ophüls' film career to this point in 1950 and this production. He also compares this film adaptation to Arthur Schnitzler's 1897 play. This is a thorough and insightful interview.

Full Circle: The two versions of Max Ophuls' La Ronde (34:47)

     This unique extra is not found on any other Regional DVD releases of La Ronde. This 34-minute extra compares the 110 minute cut with the final 93-minute cut (times are taken from the NTSC running times, not the PAL transfer running times) that Max Ophüls made soon after the film was theatrically released in 1950. The extra 17 minutes do not show elongated deleted scenes, rather they show scenes which have been excised and trimmed to make the plot move along. So, the film does not miss much from the 17 minutes which Max Ophüls trimmed in 1950, but it's still nice to have this fine, quality featurette on this Region 4 release of La Ronde by Madman's Directors Suite label.

The Circle Game: Max Ophüls and La Ronde, an article by Dr Adrian Danks, Head of Cinema Studies at the School of Applied Communication, RMIT University, and Co-curator of the Melbourne Cinémathèque

     This six-page essay by Dr. Adrian Danks starts off by briefly mentioning Max Ophüls’ film career, the quality of the acting performances in La Ronde from the ensemble cast, the faithfulness and reframing of the adaptation of Arthur Schnitzler's play, the technical and plot motifs unique to Ophüls' style such as the camera movement following the main characters, the uses of frames within frames, doors and mirrors and social preoccupations with love (i.e., relationships are explored outside of the social class background of some of the characters). The Ophüls theme common to his last four films was the idea of characters who conform to their social status despite their relationships with other people of different classes even though this idea is explored in La Ronde in a seemingly casual manner. Despite this, Dr. Danks argues that La Ronde is a "deceptively complex and profound work."

Four Directors Suite trailers

     Directors Suite trailers are included for Henri-Georges Clouzot's Le Corbeau, Luchino Visconti's The Leopard, Otto Preminger's Fallen Angel and Yasujiro Ozu's Early Summer.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     The Region 2 Second Sight United Kingdom release of La Ronde is presented on a single-layer DVD5 disc. It includes an audio commentary by Susan White, a long interview with Ophüls scholar Alan Williams, a short interview with actor Daniel Gélin and a stills gallery.

     The Region 1 Criterion Collection United States release includes the same audio commentary by Susan White, lengthy interview with Alan Williams and short interview with actor Daniel Gélin. Unique to this release is the interview with Max Ophüls' son Marcel Ophüls, correspondence between Sir Laurence Olivier and Heinrich Schnitzler (the playwright's son), illustrating the controversy surrounding the source play and an essay by film critic Terrence Rafferty.

     The Region 4 Madman Directors Suite label Australian release of La Ronde includes the same Alan Williams interview found on both the Region 1 and Region 2 releases. Unique to this release is the audio commentary by Anna Dzenis and Rick Thompson, the comparative extra which looks at the two cuts of the film - Full Circle: The two versions of Max Ophüls' La Ronde, and the essay by Dr. Adrian Danks on the film, The Circle Game: Max Ophüls and La Ronde.

     In summary, I feel that the Region 1 Criterion Collection and Region 4 Madman Directors Suite label releases are the best versions currently available of La Ronde on DVD due to their quality, yet different, extras.

Summary

     The quality extras included to support this version of La Ronde by Madman Directors Suite label makes this an easy recommendation. The comparative look at the two cuts of the film is an extra unique to this Region 4 release and the highlight of the disc for me, personally.

     If you are new to Max Ophüls' films, start at Letter from an Unknown Woman or better still The Earrings of Madame De... to get yourself acquainted with Max Ophüls' style. If you are familiar with Max Ophüls' work, then this title is a must-have addition to your film collection!

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© John Stivaktas (I like my bio)
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S550 (Firmware updated Version 020), using HDMI output
DisplaySamsung LA46A650 46 Inch LCD TV Series 6 FullHD 1080P 100Hz. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderSony STR-K1000P. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationSony HTDDW1000
SpeakersSony 6.2 Surround (Left, Front, Right, Surround Left, Surround Back, Surround Right, 2 subwoofers)

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