Max Ophuls, Still Way Ahead of Clint Eastwood and the Rest of Hollywood


After a screening on Friday of a restored print of Max Ophuls’ Lola Montes (1955)—which will play at the Ziegfield Theater on October 4, as part of the 46th New York Film Festival—I came home to an AMC broadcast of Midway (1976), the kitschy WWII sausagefest starring Charleton Heston. Not to compare apples and oranges, but vivre la difference. Whereas Ophuls’ lush CinemaScope classic moves freely and matter-of-factly among French, German, and English dialogue, Midway‘s script is pure Yankee. Even the Japanese actors (who include the legendary Toshiro Mifune) speak in English, though they do so, as Roger Ebert put it, “in monosyllables punctuated by deep, meaningful pauses.” If Clint Eastwood can now shoot the same material and use subtitles, I suppose American studios have made some progress. But more than fifty years after Ophuls’ final film, a must-see for NYC cinephiles, Hollywood is still catching up.—Benjamin Strong

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