Lola Montès ★★★★

How Is Lola Montes and its director Max Ophuls so ahead of their time? Or to put it more bitterly, how have we regressed so that his tender representations of women and significantly more thorough understanding of their unique struggles aren't the norm today?

Women are always on display in the patriarchy, and Ophuls literalizes that by making the story of Lola's loves the centerpiece of a circus act (which, in turn, implicates us as an audience to it). That feeling of your whole life being left up to the scrutiny and judgment of others is something men simply don't experience right now (especially when it comes to choices of love and sex).

While a lesser director would sensationalize the material for dramatic effect, Ophuls, again and again, empathizes with his lady leads, forcing us to ask the questions not about her behavior but our own. Why do we care who she has sex with, when or why? Why does this tradition continue with starlets today where we obsess over their lives only to judge them on it?

I still prefer The Earrings of Madame de..., but Lola Montes is a beautiful film that sadly reminds us how we're dealing with plenty of the same social issues that we've been dealing with for far too long.