La Ronde: Criterion Collection

January 28, 2012 5 Min Read

Review by: Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

This movie doesn’t have a narrative as much as a theme, which seems to be instant gratification at all costs. As the movie opens, we see a carousel and our narrator, who then introduces us to a beautiful woman. He then tells us this woman will kick off a most interesting game. She meets a soldier and offers to help him unwind, an offer that is first turned down. But he soon warms up to the idea and the game begins, as the two engage in some stress relief. In turn, the soldier then meets another woman and of course, does his best to seduce her. When she gives in to her impulses, she is soon met up with by our narrator himself, who then informs her she is now a chambermaid. The game of seduction and gratification continues, but as this sexual carousel spins faster and faster, will the game ever end?

As you can tell from the synopsis, this is more of a celebration of sexual promiscuity than a traditional narrative. That doesn’t sound like a pleasant concept, but in the hands of director Max Ophul, it works. The tone isn’t serious at all, so when placed inside this mirthful context, the subject matter softens quite a bit. La Ronde deals with sex, but at the same time, is never really erotic. Neither the men or women come off as skilled lovers or intelligent people, just naive folks driven by their carnal impulses. So it can be hard to relate to these people, which in turns lessens the overall connection to the material. These are people who lie and cheat without hesitation, so you either hate them, laugh at them, or feel sorry for them. As harsh as my critique might sound, I still La Ronde is a solid movie. I was entertained for the most part and the film has a few hilarious moments. I doubt I will revisit it however, which leads me to recommend it as a rental.

Video: How does it look?

La Ronde is presented in full frame, as intended. As usual, Criterion’s digital restoration work has yielded an impressive visual presentation. The print still has some marks and debris, but not much, especially for a 1950 picture. The detail is solid, with minimal softness and grain never becomes a concern. I found contrast to be good also, well balanced and stark. So we have another great looking transfer from Criterion, as expected.

Audio: How does it sound?

Audio- This movie has little need for extensive audio, so the included mono is more than adequate. I found no real problems with clarity or harshness, which is good for a film of this nature and age, so I was pleased from the start. The music and sound effects are clean and come off well, even if not as rich as a full surround track would be. I heard no issues with the vocals either, which sound crisp and are always at a proper volume, no trouble arises there. This disc also includes English subtitles, which are always welcome.

Supplements: What are the extras?

Susan White, an expert on the film’s director, supplies audio comments and she is well researched, to be sure. She covers a lot of production details, as well as tidbits on the director, the cast, and the film’s impact on cinema. A brisk, enjoyable session that conveys a good deal of insight, but remains easy on the ears. This disc also includes three new interviews, one with the director’s son, another with star Daniel Gelin, and the third with film scholar Alan Williams.

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