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****Excellent ***Good **Fair *Poor : VIDEOCASSETTES

January 12, 1988|MICHAEL WILMINGTON

"La Ronde" and "Lola Montes." Nelson/Embassy International Collection. $29.95 each. "A shot that does not call for tracks / is agony for poor, dear Max," James Mason once wittily rhymed, jesting about director Max Ophuls' propensity for long, sweeping camera movements. These two films show his style at its peak: the camera gliding through rich interiors while impeccable actors, caught usually in some fin de siecle romantic tragedy, speak ironically and epigrammatically. Both masterpieces ooze elegance. "La Ronde" (1950) has an all-star French cast and is based on Artur Schnitzler's cynical roundelay: Passion passes from partner to partner, with Anton Walbrook, as an omniscient carrousel master and kibitzer, overseeing all. "Lola Montes" (1955), in which the famous courtesan's lives and loves are revealed in the circus where she ends her days, was Ophuls' last film. For the only time in his career, the director worked with color and wide screen, and the results are ravishing. (Nelson has released "Lola" in the letter-box format; the compositions are uncropped, complete, Ophulsian, beautiful.) Information: (213) 285-6000. ****

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