There’s a strange and quite frankly farcical notion that in the ‘good old days’ everyone held hands until after marriage and promiscuity was something which only happened in the shadows. Sure, your gender and social class had a huge bearing on your ability to ‘play the field’, but it wasn’t the be all and end all. Arthur Schnitzler knew when he penned La Ronde in 1897 that it would cause a scandal. And when the play was eventually first performed in public in 1920, controversy was precisely what it delivered. On returning to France on 1950, it was the first text Max Ophüls chose to adapt.
Roll up, roll up, for the master of ceremonies (Anton Walbrook) is here to escort you on his merry-go-round of intimate encounters. The setting is Vienna in 1900. We start with a prostitute (Simone Signoret) who takes a soldier (Serge Reggiani) under a bridge. He in turn takes a fancy to a chambermaid (Simone Simon) at a dancehall who happily submits to his charms. The circle is complete when the tenth story arrives back where we began.
La Ronde is a magical portmanteau piece which is full of charm and personality. Ophüls amasses a stellar French cast, which also includes Danielle Darrieux, Gérard Philipe and Daniel Gélin, who all provide great entertainment. The opening sequence is like a dream and there’s something almost lyrical in the way the story flows. La Ronde is a world of wonder which will put you under its spell.
The newly restored version of La Ronde is released on DVD and Blu-ray by Bluebell Films on 27 May.