The exquisite circularity of the roundelay has always been an attractive cinematic device, but never has it been used with more delicacy and canny insight than in La Ronde
, Max Ophüls's adaptation of the Arthur Schnitzler play Reigen
. The camera glides, swirls, and delicately dances around fleeting moments between lovers, from chance meetings and secret trysts, to the sincere but hopeless courtship by a besotted admirer, to the relaxed banter of cuckolding married couples. Ophüls's wry glimpses behind closed doors and pulled curtains are both cynical and sweet, generous of character but suspect of motive. As one scene ends, we waltz along as the characters change partners and dance again and again; we follow streetwalkers and soldiers, courtesans and counts, until we come full circle. Returning to the superb metaphor of the carousel, where dapper Anton Walbrook wanders about as host and commentator (a sort of literary ringmaster, like Peter Ustinov in Lola Montes
), Ophüls plays at the game of love with a cocked grim and a sly jab, though he never belittles or judges. What could easily have descended into farce is lifted into loving satire by Ophüls's elegant touch and sparkling wit. A huge success in Europe, its continental attitude wasn't embraced by American audiences at the time. But it has come to be regarded one of Ophüls's finest and most beautifully visualized films. Everyone is somebody's fool, and isn't it wonderful? --Sean Axmaker
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.