In La Ronde the French have reduced cinema to its basic ingredient, the seduction scene. Adopted from a play by Arthur Schnitzler, the film replaces plot with ten love affairs, each interlocking to form a circle. Schnitzler's play, like Tom Lehrer's parody of Voltaire, follows the path of love back to its starting point, perhaps more delicately but with much less humor.
Strangely enough, ten seductions become tedious, although Anton Walbrook does his best to keep between boudoir scenes diverting. Representing himself as "everyone and no one," Walbrook leads the merry-go-round as an omniscient spectator, introducing the participants and commenting wryly on the spectacle. At appropriate moments, the camera leaves the lovers and returns to the master of ceremonies. One suspects, however, that these exits have become hastier since the film's Boston debut, and that the bedroom lights fade out much sooner than director Max Ophulus intended.
La Ronde, unfortunately, would not improve if the last moments of each love scene were replaced. Schnitzler's theme, that love is a bore, is almost as dated as some of his dialogue, and in several episodes, the words become forced and stilted in an effort to produce the double meaning and the sly implication. An imposing array of French stardom, from Gerard Philipe to Danielle Darrieux, does manage to salvage some of the bedtime satire. Coupled with Walbrook's performance, scenes such as the affair between The Wife and The Student leave a residue of genuine humor.
In its present state, La Ronde is neither as daring as publicity would indicate, nor as funny. Its ingenious sets of Vienna in 1900, however, plus Oscar Strauss' waltz "Love Makes the World Go Round" add a romantic flavor to the film, and Schnitzler's carnival of love emerges pleasantly, if not spectacularly.