Arthur Schnitzler also wrote the extremely interesting 1926 short novel Traumnovelle on which Stanley Kubrick’s final movie Eyes Wide Shut was based.
The structure of the play (and the movie) is a series of ten sexual encounters with each character figuring in two consecutive encounters with different people.
One of the things that really intrigues me is the extraordinary critical hostility to Roger Vadim. Critics who are prepared to gush over mediocre Hollywood directors seem to be enraged at the thought of a European director who failed to be serious-minded, pessimistic and obscure. Vadim’s output as a director was varied, interesting and always entertaining. Maybe he wasn’t overly deep, maybe he wasn’t an Ingmar Bergman, but he was inventive and fun. American critics might also be offended that Vadim treats sex lightheartedly.
Vadim chose to set his movie in France in 1914, in the last days of La Belle Epoque. This gives it a slight melancholy tinge - this is a world about to be swept away by war.
The various sexual encounters cross class boundaries, and cross the boundaries between the respectable and the non-respectable.
By 1964 these things were no longer so shocking, in Europe at least.
This is a chance to see Jane Fonda at her peak as an actress. She’s delightful as the adulteress wife Sophie. I like all the actresses in this movie. I’m a huge Catherine Spaak fan (if you haven’t seen her delightful 1968 movie The Libertine then do so immediately) and I loved her here. Anna Karina is charming and amusing. I like Marie Dubois a great deal as the likeable prostitute.
I mostly like the actors as well, especially Claude Giraud as the soldier Georges and the great Maurice Ronet as Sophie’s husband. And I’ve always rather liked Jean Sorel (who plays the cynical Count).
Vadim appeared to have no great interest in politics and perhaps that’s one of the reasons critics don’t like this movie. The opportunity was there for some biting political satire (and there is some) but Vadim was not particularly interested. Personally I’m grateful to Vadim for keeping the politics to a minimum.
Even by 1964 standards this movie is rather tame. There’s a lot of sex going on but we don’t see it and there’s a bit of almost-nudity.
I’ve reviewed a number of Roger Vadim’s movies over the years. The Night Heaven Fell (1958) and Love on a Pillow (1962) are both quirky intriguing offbeat movies. Barbarella (1968) of course is simply wonderful and I even have a definite soft spot for his much-reviled Pretty Maids All in a Row (1971).
The Kino DVD of La Ronde offers a very nice 16:9 enhanced transfer. The only extra of note is a brief interview with Vadim and Jane Fonda.
La Ronde is lighthearted and amusing. Recommended.