[L'Opéra Mouffe] is a sensitive documentary, and, as such, "experimental" to the extent that it introduces imaginative moods into the documentary. We see lyrically, unaffectedly nude lovers; we see children playing monsters in masks; we see the pitifully old, the morally and physically misshapen. But is the method of showing these things imaginative enough? For one thing, it is uneven. At times, it is pretentious, arty, and banal (as in the young girl running slow-motion through a field and in the trapped dove) and at other times it simply "drifts" by adding one image statistically, rather than meaningfully, to another (as in the sequences of drunks and the people wiping their noses)…. Image added to image without development or impetus is not true montage but picture-magazine journalism…. Technically, L'Opéra Mouffe is a "suite," a series of facets, but these facets possess no unifying principle either intellectual or sensuous. Supposedly, one thinks: "How human! how pitiful! how sweet! how strange!… in brief: how lifelike!" Yet, however interesting and well-photographed in the conventional sense, the "anthology" attitude that life is an endless network of strange contradictions can never get, in terms of meaning, beyond the stage of clever reporting; it can never reach the stage of meaning that is art as an efficient form; it falls apart into the scattered materials of potential art.
Yet when, as presumably here, reporting pretends to be art, how undependable the reporting, as such, emerges! L'Opéra Mouffe, with its air of a jaunty café ballad, is deceptively "chic" and highly irresponsible in every way. The best reason for talking about it is that it represents a decided trend in way of contemporary thinking, insofar as these ways have a significant moral meaning…. The "trick" of placing lyric, exuberant, and happy images side by side with dreary, pathetic, and horrible ones is that we live in an age of special fear and tension, fed intimately by two world wars within half a century and the prospect of a third, ominously fatal, one. (p. 52)
L'Opéra Mouffe, substantially, is only a reporter's visual notebook about the backgrounds and conditions of significant human experience; it is inadequately processed studio material, playing a charade as an experimental film. (p. 53)
Parker Tyler, "New Images," in Film Quarterly (copyright 1959 by The Regents of the University of California; reprinted by permission of the University of California Press), Vol. XII, No. 3, Spring, 1959, pp. 50-3.∗