La ronde is presented in the aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this dual-layered disc. The image has been pictureboxed.
Overall the black and white transfer is okay but has a few issues. I’m not sure if any of the issues have to do with the source materials, but the image overall is somewhat fuzzy and murky. It’s not an awful looking transfer, but detail and definition is nowhere near as strong as it could probably be (Madame de… looks much sharper when compared with this transfer) and the film does look a little darker than I would have expected. The print is in decent condition but still presents some damage including some light debris, a vertical line in a few sequences and the last quarter of the film presents heavier damage, circular marks appearing every so often. Flickering is also an issue. Again, it’s not an awful transfer as it’s still very watchable but when compared to some other black and white transfers from Criterion, including their release of Madame de… it’s clearly not a strong one. 6/10
All DVD screen captures are presented in their original size from the source disc. Images have been compressed slightly to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.
This single-disc release is being released by Criterion along with three other Max Ophuls titles. Interestingly they have not (as of the time of this review) released them as a box set. They have certainly packaged them interestingly enough, each one coming in a slim digipak/slip sleeve package (though their release for The Earrings of Madame de…, which is accompanied by a thick booklet, resembles their other digipak releases.)
La ronde comes with a few decent supplements starting with an audio commentary by film scholar Susan White, which also looks to appear on the region 2 Second Sight DVD release. It’s a decent commentary, White appearing to be reading from notes. This makes it a bit dry by it’s a decent scholarly commentary as she talks a bit about Arthur Schintzler’s play that the film is based on, even comparing the film and play, gets into the themes of the film, the characters and the actors, talks about the images presented, Ophuls’ style, and even gets into Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut (which is based on a novella by Schintzler.) It’s informative and quick and worth a listen.
Also taken from that Second Sight DVD is “Circles of Desire: Alan Williams on La ronde”, a 35-minute interview with Williams who goes over the making of the film as well as offering a brief bit of insight into Ophul’s career. He discusses the play on which the film is based, even comparing the film and the play, touches on Ophuls’ techniques with the camera and editing, and he also offers some insight. While it is really nothing but Williams sitting there and offering us his knowledge on the film it still makes for an informative and interesting supplement.
Recorded by Criterion at the Cannes Film Festival the next supplement is an interview with Max Ophuls’ son, Marcel. Presented in anamorphic widescreen and running only 6-minutes it’s a decent enough interview but not as insightful as one would probably hope. Marcel talks a bit about his father returning from America to France and looking for work, gets into how he came to work on La ronde, his filming techniques, his relationship with his actors, specifically his work with Danielle Darrieux, and also suggests that Ophuls actually didn’t want Marlene Dietrich in the role of The Actress, despite her interest (in the previous supplement Williams states that Dietrich’s schedule didn’t allow her to do the role.) There’s also mention of a longer cut that was met with boos, Ophuls then cutting out 17-minutes (the commentary mentions the shorter version, the one on this DVD, is Ophuls' preferred version.) Unfortunately brief but worth watching.
There is also a 1989 interview with actor Daniel Gélin, who plays the young man, Alfred. Taken from a documentary on Ophuls by Martina Müller, this segment has Gélin go over how he got the role, his excitement in getting a star billing along with the bigger actors despite being a relative unknown, and touching on Ophuls’ method of working with actors, referrinmg to his scene with Darrieux’s character in bed. It’s an interesting interview, running 12-minutes.
A nice addition is a set of correspondence between Laurence Olivier and Heinrich Schnitzler, the son of the play’s author, which gets into the controversy around the play. The letters are presented as stills that are navigated through using the arrow keys on your remote. The first letter has Olivier requesting permission from Heinrich in adapting the play. Heinrich then responds giving a very long explanation as to why his father no longer wanted the play to be presented. The letter from Heinrich is long but quite interesting and well worth reading. A nice addition to this release.
Finally a booklet is included with an essay by Terrence Rafferty, which goes over the film, it’s production, and the play all in great detail. The essay nicely rounds out the supplements.
And that concludes this release. Overall a very informative set of supplements. 8/10