Lola Montes is, in my unhumble opinion, the greatest film of all time, and I am willing to stake my critical reputation, such as it is, on this one proposition above all others. — Andrew Sarris
I don’t know about that, but it could very well be the film with the most moving parts. Sure, George Lucas can ask a computer to generate hundreds of ships for a space battle in the latest Star Wars disasters, but even he can’t sustain it for a whole movie. Lola Montes is absolutely remarkable in its choreography. The film bounces back and forth in time between scenes from Lola’s life and a Cirque Du Soleil-type performance of her life, with Lola herself, for example, performing a trapeze act to symbolize her rising through the ranks of the aristocracy a la Becky Sharp. Every frame of the flashbacks is jammed with servants, dancing nobility, children avoiding going to bed, while the circus is a constant, intricate dance, always moving, precise as a Swiss watch, yet with room for human interaction among the cogs. And even in the rare moments between two characters, the frame is full of action and energy — you know this is a director dedicated to blocking when people move around the room during a stage coach ride.
Still, as much as I admire its fabulous choreography and dazzling colors, its central character, though not unsympathetic, doesn’t have a lot of good qualities, or even interesting ones. Her ambition isn’t ruthless enough to be entertaining or noble enough to be worth cheering for. The size of the production is all out of proportion to the size of its subject. But in a way, that makes the end, which is much sweeter and less punishing than you’d expect from a story like this, all the more poignant. Because for all the grandness on display, the relationships remain small, idiosyncratic, personal, and fragile.