Director: Max Ophüls
This film ranked #37 in Time Out's list of the 100 greatest French films. Click here to see the full list.
A biography of the celebrated 19th century adventuress, but not a biography in the conventional sense: the lady's life is chronicled in a highly selective series of flashbacks, framed by scenes in a New Orleans circus where she allows herself to be put on show to a vulgar and impressionable public. The space between her memories and her circus appearance is the distance between romantic dreams and tawdry reality, or between love and the knowledge that love dies. Ophüls conjures that space into life - indeed, makes it the very subject of his film - by means of the most sumptuous stylistic effects imaginable: compositions unmatched in their fluidity, moving-camerawork that blurs the line between motion and emotion. If ever a director 'wrote' with his camera, it was Ophüls, and this still looks like his most sublime work.