Introduced by Cathy Haynes with Tony Paley
The final film by director Max Ophüls presents the real-life story of the scandalous nineteenth-century courtesan Lola Montes as it might have been presented by circus showman P.T. Barnum. In breathtaking cinemascope and eye-popping colour, spectacle competes with moments of tenderness and loss as Montes’s life is replayed like an acrobatic fashion show version of Remembrance of Things Past. Peter Ustinov gives a deadpan performance as the circus master whose zeal for profits may conceal a deeper passion, as he summons up flashbacks of Montes’s affairs with Franz Liszt and the King of Bavaria.
France 1955. Dir. Max Ophüls. With Martine Carol, Peter Ustinov, Anton Walbrook. Costumes Georges Annenkov. 35mm.
Cathy Haynes is an artist, curator, writer and educator. In 2014 she made Stereochron Island, a public project reimagining Victoria park as a tiny island territory campaigning to become a state without clocks.
Tony Paley is a contributor to the Guardian film blog.