Friday, April 29, 2011

#329: Letter from an Unknown Woman

Directed by: MAX OPHULS
1948, TSPDT Rank #91

This is one of those rare romantic films that has a real mysterious allure and hidden substance to it. Its a story very unusual to film, but ultimately quite unexpectedly moving and resonating. The idea of loving someone your whole life, devoting your life to them, with them barely aware of your existence until after you've passed on is a very unique concept and one that deserves a lot of pondering. The actors fit the story like a glove; Joan Fontaine is obviously luminous. I've thought for some time that Fontaine was one of the most under-appreciated actresses of her time - she is simply ravishing. As a commentator elsewhere on the internet, said "you can't help but fall in love with her while watching this movie," and her character definitely deserved more than she got over the course of her lifetime (which the film portrays basically from beginning to end), for all of her beauty and undying devotion. Max Ophuls is also an almost forgotten director today; I guess film buffs like me (and you) need to continue seeking out his films and recommending them to others. Kubrick often cited Ophuls as his favorite director, and a great influence on his work - which isn't surprising, given the fluid, atmospheric cinematography and a neatly camouflaged and unconventional sense of rhythm and pacing. This is a very solid film, another case where I find it quite a shame that it is not readily available at all to those of the US. I recommend it, and hope to bring some more reports on Ophul's work in the not so distant future.

(Rating: 8/10)

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