Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
November 26
October 7, 1951
La Ronde shut down in New York

By the time Max Ophüls’ La Ronde came to America, it had played for over two years in Paris and for four months in London to almost entirely enthusiastic reviews. Based on a play by Arthur Schnitzler, La Ronde tells ten stories, each connected by a character who has an affair with a character from the previous story. It begins with a prostitute being picked up and ends with the last character picking up the same working girl. While the film was overtly sexual, most considered it a sophisticated comedy of manners. André Bazin commended it as “a spectacular and brilliant film, extremely nimble in its writing as well as in its filming — above all the movement of the camera; and it is also full of a rather Germanic eroticism.” The New York State Censor, however, seemed fixated on the latter quality, its “eroticism,” rather than on its nimble writing. On October 7, the NY Censor board refused to grant the film an exhibition license. None of the New York censors found the film unpleasant; indeed some commended it. Rather they felt its casual depiction of sexuality (out of wedlock and with prostitutes) “would tend to corrupt morals” by contradicting the “standards of normal family life.” The distributor took this case to the New York Appellate court, where they lost. They then took the case to the United States Supreme Court where after months of legal maneuvering they were granted the right to show the film. Yet despite this victory, the ruling was so narrow that it hardly seemed to open up the potential for cinematic expression overall. The film itself went on to be nominated for an Oscar for Best Writing and Best Art Direction.


More Flashbacks
Casablanca November 26, 1942
Casablanca released

In New York City, stars, including Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, gathered for the premiere of Casablanca.

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November 26, 1993
Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould released

Few knew what to expect from a film called Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould when it opened in New York.

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November 26, 1993
A Life in Fragments

In the same month and year that Jane Campion’s The Piano was released, going on be nominated for 8 Oscars and winning three, a little known filmmaker from Toronto, François Girard, released Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould, a bio-pic of sorts about the man that many consider to be one of the world’s greatest pianist. Taking its structure from Bach’s Goldberg Variations, the film mixes short pieces of documentary, animation, narrative (with Colm Feore playing Gould), and performance to throw light on this complex artist. Girard commented that “as Gould was such a complex character, the biggest problem was to find a way to look at his work and deal with his visions. The film is built of fragments, each one trying to capture an aspect of Gould.” The film also helped break open the biopic genre to all sorts of experimentation and transformation, as well as becoming iconic for innovative cinema. In 1996, for example, The Simpsons released their own tribute "22 Short Films About Springfield."

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