This essay looks at the relationship between the two narrative registers of Max Ophüls's Lola Montès (France, 1955)—the staging of circus attractions in the present and the repeated flashbacks to the past—in terms of the way in which the circus exploits Lola's associations with Romanticism, transforming her into a commodity to be marketed to a modern mass theatrical audience. At the same time, this essay argues that the film questions its own use of spectacle, in particular CinemaScope and Eastman Color, to present its notorious heroine as an object of spectacle for contemporary motion picture audiences.

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