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77 Letter from an Unknown Woman 
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Post Re: 77 Letter from an Unknown Woman
This is airing on TCM tomorrow 10:15 pm est. Set your DVRs! Its not available on DVD in the US.

hope Rob won't mind me cutting & pasting his review:

Quote:
So far on my journey there has been no huge surprise. By that, I mean that I have not seen a supposed masterpiece and been disappointed. I've raved about films that are in the pantheon and I am totally loving this trip. To be honest, I have come alive again and my passion for cinema has been rekindled. During the last two weeks I have also watched a Schwarzenegger action movie and a very recent graphic novel movie and it was a depressing experience on both counts.

I now have my first major surprise.

Sitting at no.77 is a film I had never heard of before. It stars Joan Fontaine and the French actor, Louis Jourdan. The film is directed by a German, Max Ophuls. The film is "Letter From an Unknown Woman". I had literally no idea what to expect. I approached this film as "clean" as anyone can. I had heard of, but knew nothing about the director.

The opening scenes quickly let you know that tomorrow, musician Jourdan is about to have a duel to the death - he is in Vienna (yeah, we're back) in 1900. However, when he gets to his apartment it's clear that he has no intention of taking that risk. His servant hands him a letter from an unknown woman. The first line is:

"By the time you read this letter, I may be dead"

Now we jump back in time to follow a love story. Or is it?

This is the saddest, most tragic, tale I can remember. The genius is that it does not feel like that until it creeps up on you and .... If you have ever been in love and struggled, this film will tear you apart. If you have ever followed a different path to your heart this film will break you down. If you have ever loved? But hold on, could it be melodrama? For sure, the film teeters on the edge, but somehow it never falls. From the first scene you will be deeply involved in this story and these people. By the final scene at the gate you will be wrecked.

Technically, it is brilliant. Again, we have gorgeous monochromatic cinematography that relies on shadows and highlighted lighting. The use of a musical score (versus a hit soundtrack) is both dramatic and deeply poignant. The film has a grace and eloquence that I cannot remember and the acting is sublime. For 1948 this is an unusually mature film.

This is one of the most heart breaking and crushing movies I have ever seen. I might sound like I have stepped into hyperbole, but it is right up there with Casablanca and maybe even better. I have not flag waved a movie so far. However, if you have even half a heart, and half a chance you should do everything you can to find this film and be prepared to be as devastated as I am.

A perfect movie? 10/10


I can't wait to see this!


Fri Mar 26, 2010 1:35 pm
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Post Re: 77 Letter from an Unknown Woman
Hi Calvero

It's a fresh today as it was back then. I've seen it once more since then, but with my girlfriend.

She was wowed....

I hope a few people catch it

Rob


Mon Mar 29, 2010 1:18 am
Post Re: 77 Letter from an Unknown Woman
Anyone else catch this? I loved it.

I agree with most of Rob's review above. The only thing I'll add is that the film seemed to be an exercise in tone. I wasn't heartbroken by the ending because I knew it was coming. Instead I was affected by the totality of the story because of the distinct sad, melancholy tone that is set from the outset of the film. Ophuls kept the tone consistent by using the actors, music, and camera to his advantage. Even the scenes where the couple finally realizes their romance have twinges of sadness permeating throughout. That's not because I knew the ending, but because of how the scene was executed. Lovely movie.


Thu Apr 01, 2010 10:55 am
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Post Re: 77 Letter from an Unknown Woman
Letter From An Unknown Woman

I'm beginning to dislike Max Ophuls. I've only seen two of his films now, and they are both about women being foolish. Now, obviously both this film as well as The Earrings of Madame de... end in tragedy. Some would argue that Ophuls is trying to discourage romantic idealism because of this. I would disagree; his purpose is slightly ambiguous at times, but I think ultimately he depicts his protagonists in a "Romeo and Juliet" ish light, i.e. the whole world is out to get the innocent lover(s).

I think this movie works better than The Earrings of Madame de... purely because of Joan Fontaine's character. She is retarded, but Fontaine manages to pull of the transformation from squirrelly girl to accomplished lady better than anyone else could have. This makes her believable.

The other reason Letter From An Unknown Woman works better is its style. There are plenty of the Ophuls signature long track shots, but they are more subdued. They work in a way to bring out the beauty of the environment. But overall, the best shots in the movie are taken from a stationary camera. Some are wonderfully atmospheric; for instance, the second train station scene.

Like The Earrings of Madame de..., this film relies on its soundtrack quite heavily. The main theme borrows directly from the song the pianist plays through most of the movie (I think its a Rachmaninoff prelude). Occasionally it takes over the scene when Ophuls is trying to make a point. It has been written elsewhere that the tone and style of this film are greatly influenced by music and are musical in their composition; I'm sure this is true, but I'm not going to delve into it.

If anyone knows of an Ophuls movie that is about women being stupid, let me know. My patience is running thin. I really want to give these movies lower scores, but they're just too well made.

3/4


Fri Jul 20, 2012 6:21 pm
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Post Re: 77 Letter from an Unknown Woman
darthyoshi wrote:
Letter From An Unknown Woman

I'm beginning to dislike Max Ophuls. I've only seen two of his films now, and they are both about women being foolish. Now, obviously both this film as well as The Earrings of Madame de... end in tragedy. Some would argue that Ophuls is trying to discourage romantic idealism because of this. I would disagree; his purpose is slightly ambiguous at times, but I think ultimately he depicts his protagonists in a "Romeo and Juliet" ish light, i.e. the whole world is out to get the innocent lover(s).

I think this movie works better than The Earrings of Madame de... purely because of Joan Fontaine's character. She is retarded, but Fontaine manages to pull of the transformation from squirrelly girl to accomplished lady better than anyone else could have. This makes her believable.

The other reason Letter From An Unknown Woman works better is its style. There are plenty of the Ophuls signature long track shots, but they are more subdued. They work in a way to bring out the beauty of the environment. But overall, the best shots in the movie are taken from a stationary camera. Some are wonderfully atmospheric; for instance, the second train station scene.

Like The Earrings of Madame de..., this film relies on its soundtrack quite heavily. The main theme borrows directly from the song the pianist plays through most of the movie (I think its a Rachmaninoff prelude). Occasionally it takes over the scene when Ophuls is trying to make a point. It has been written elsewhere that the tone and style of this film are greatly influenced by music and are musical in their composition; I'm sure this is true, but I'm not going to delve into it.

If anyone knows of an Ophuls movie that is about women being stupid, let me know. My patience is running thin. I really want to give these movies lower scores, but they're just too well made.

3/4


Thanks for the write-up Yoshi. I can recommend La Ronde to you, which is also Ophuls but I think it'll irritate you less

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Fri Jul 20, 2012 7:48 pm
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Post Re: 77 Letter from an Unknown Woman
darthyoshi wrote:
Letter From An Unknown Woman

I'm beginning to dislike Max Ophuls. I've only seen two of his films now, and they are both about women being foolish. Now, obviously both this film as well as The Earrings of Madame de... end in tragedy. Some would argue that Ophuls is trying to discourage romantic idealism because of this. I would disagree; his purpose is slightly ambiguous at times, but I think ultimately he depicts his protagonists in a "Romeo and Juliet" ish light, i.e. the whole world is out to get the innocent lover(s).

I think this movie works better than The Earrings of Madame de... purely because of Joan Fontaine's character. She is retarded, but Fontaine manages to pull of the transformation from squirrelly girl to accomplished lady better than anyone else could have. This makes her believable.

The other reason Letter From An Unknown Woman works better is its style. There are plenty of the Ophuls signature long track shots, but they are more subdued. They work in a way to bring out the beauty of the environment. But overall, the best shots in the movie are taken from a stationary camera. Some are wonderfully atmospheric; for instance, the second train station scene.

Like The Earrings of Madame de..., this film relies on its soundtrack quite heavily. The main theme borrows directly from the song the pianist plays through most of the movie (I think its a Rachmaninoff prelude). Occasionally it takes over the scene when Ophuls is trying to make a point. It has been written elsewhere that the tone and style of this film are greatly influenced by music and are musical in their composition; I'm sure this is true, but I'm not going to delve into it.

If anyone knows of an Ophuls movie that is not about women being stupid, let me know. My patience is running thin. I really want to give these movies lower scores, but they're just too well made.

3/4


Fri Jul 20, 2012 8:35 pm
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Post Re: 77 Letter from an Unknown Woman
Quote:
This is airing on TCM tomorrow 10:15 pm est. Set your DVRs! Its not available on DVD in the US.


Finally got a dvd release on 10/16/12


Mon Nov 26, 2012 4:01 pm
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Post Re: 77 Letter from an Unknown Woman
airs again on TCM tonight

Fontaine(age 95) and Jourdan(age 92) are still with us. That must be some sort of record(both the leading man & lady of a feature from that long ago still alive)


Tue Aug 06, 2013 1:14 pm
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