Max Ophuls - c/d, s & d?

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I know there'll be some strongly held opinions about his films from the knowledgeable folks of ILx... :)

Must admit I've not seen one frame, let alone film, of his, but in reading David Thomson and more, he comes across as a major figure.

So, what are people's thoughts?

Tom May (Tom May), Thursday, 29 January 2004 00:38 (sixteen years ago) link

Haven't seen any of his either, but I can't say I've heard too much bad about him. Most of the people I know who love him would say search out Lola Montes like a mad dog.

Eric H. (Eric H.), Thursday, 29 January 2004 03:44 (sixteen years ago) link

can't really help too much. Lola Montes is wonderful and Letter from an Unknown Woman is one of the best movies i have ever seen.

ryan (ryan), Thursday, 29 January 2004 04:36 (sixteen years ago) link


amateur!st (amateurist), Thursday, 29 January 2004 14:15 (sixteen years ago) link

Quite liked The Reckless Moment--though I have to admit I preferred Goran Visnjic in the remake (The Deep End) to James Mason, but otherwise I prefer the original.

*Letter from an Unknown Woman* is one of my favorites, but it's not for everyone: it's a sentimental weepie. So elegant and beautiful. Scorsese talks about it (and shows my favorite scene) in A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies (in which he kinda shows the best scenes from a lot of movies--lots of spoilers).

Earrings of Madame de... has a great rep. I'd love to check that out--thanks for reminding me!

Robomonkey (patronus), Thursday, 29 January 2004 16:54 (sixteen years ago) link

lfauw is not really sentimental, it's rather awesomely fucked up

amateur!st (amateurist), Thursday, 29 January 2004 21:37 (sixteen years ago) link

one month passes...
Ophuls is great, major. Everything I've ever seen is simply beautiful. Earrings of Madame a film I could watch every day.

eddie hurt (ddduncan), Wednesday, 17 March 2004 17:08 (sixteen years ago) link

three years pass...

towers above just about everyone in my book, seriously the best

gershy, Sunday, 21 October 2007 05:54 (twelve years ago) link

ech. nice camera moves tho.

That one guy that hit it and quit it, Sunday, 21 October 2007 21:06 (twelve years ago) link


That one guy that hit it and quit it, Sunday, 21 October 2007 21:06 (twelve years ago) link

one month passes...

wow, Letter from an Unknown Woman is indeed stupendous. It's also maybe the least sentimental '40s "weepie" imaginable.

Dr Morbius, Tuesday, 4 December 2007 17:00 (twelve years ago) link

nine months pass...

after years of only having seen and Letter from an Unknown Woman, my friend showed me prints of Reckless Moment & Caught! the rest I'm going to have to see before the month is out. unbelievably pathological.

these are only 'weepies' in the way that Fassbinder makes weepies, in fact the definite unbroken line goes from Max Ophuls to Douglas Sirk to Fassbinder

Milton Parker, Thursday, 11 September 2008 00:48 (eleven years ago) link

when will The Reckless Moment get a DVD release?

Alfred, Lord Sotosyn, Thursday, 11 September 2008 00:50 (eleven years ago) link

Reckless Moment was incredible, Joan Bennett = rich society supermom that SNAPS defending her daughter while her husband is out of town, but if they're smart they'll do Caught! first

Milton Parker, Thursday, 11 September 2008 00:58 (eleven years ago) link

Earrings of Madame de, La Ronde, Le Plaisir from Criterion today.

Dr Morbius, Tuesday, 16 September 2008 15:00 (eleven years ago) link

two weeks pass...

Nathan Lee & Andrew Sarris discuss Lola Montes:

Dr Morbius, Wednesday, 1 October 2008 16:38 (eleven years ago) link

saw Earrings of Madame De.... I hadn't done a bit of research and had no idea it was in French. Reckless Moment & Caught! are such full-blooded American films, some of the gangsters are cruel enough to foreshadow 50's Sam Fuller films, so I wasn't ready for how relentlessly elegant this world was going to be

maybe his most unlikable characters? and yet the sheer volume of little emotional details keeps coming at you so quickly that by the end, you're inside all three of their heads and there's no way out

Milton Parker, Monday, 6 October 2008 21:15 (eleven years ago) link

'One way of leaving a woman is to let her leave' is a pretty great kiss-off line coming from the mistress

Milton Parker, Monday, 6 October 2008 21:17 (eleven years ago) link

I don't remember lines from movies that are in French.

except the last one in Breathless I guess.

Dr Morbius, Tuesday, 7 October 2008 13:31 (eleven years ago) link

I remember something the same guy said in Le Doulos.

And something the director of Le Doulos said in Breathless.

Retrato Em Redd E Blecch (James Redd and the Blecchs), Tuesday, 7 October 2008 13:44 (eleven years ago) link

saw the other three late French films this weekend. Le Plaisir is beautiful, the middle story perhaps drags a bit but the opening & closing are just relentless eye candy, the camera movements & sets are so beautiful you just keep melting. Lola Montes, big epic spectacle & likeably meta -- maybe it left me a little cold, but the current unrestored DVD is so washed out I shouldn't even claim I've seen it.

but Le Ronde killed me, I was unprepared for something so self-conscious or sexed up, you usually don't get both done equally well: 10 episodes where a couple gets together, connected by one of the characters wandering off, vaguely discontent to dreamily encounter their next partner. the opening five minute unbroken shot of Anton Walbrook omnisciently addressing the audience on a stage, walking off the stage past the film cameras into 1900's Vienna, singing a song and then giving acting directions to the first character: 'you are a prostitute, and your first client of the night will be the sixth man who turns that corner'... this film wastes no time. At another point Anton takes out a scissors and edits the 35mm film strip to change the scene you're watching, smiling at the camera and whispering 'censorship!'. Buñuel must have been thinking of this film when making The Phantom of Liberty, and this film is just as surreal, but far more romantic. It doesn't come off as experimental though, it's pure fun and it evidently did the best box office of his later films.

Very different from Unknown Woman, but probably my favorite after that one, though I've liked every single one so far.

Milton Parker, Tuesday, 14 October 2008 18:58 (eleven years ago) link

Phantom of Liberty = my sentimentally favorite Buñuel and I'm sort of actively miffed that I didn't know about Le Ronde, I done been missing out

The earlier film that comes to mind with Le Ronde is Lubitsch's One Hour With You from 1931, as a pre-code Hollywood film its subject matter is just as randy, and while Maurice Chevalier's habit of directly addressing the audience came from theatre, when it occurs on an early talkie movie screen it seems shockingly modern.

Milton Parker, Tuesday, 14 October 2008 19:06 (eleven years ago) link

oh man. La Ronde, not Le, no wonder google was stumping me.

opening shot 4 minutes 53 seconds and unlike Touch of Evil I don't think Ophuls cheated:

Milton Parker, Tuesday, 14 October 2008 19:20 (eleven years ago) link

Another later film that comes to mind with La Ronde, given the adap of Schnitzler and the directors' fondness for tracking is... Eyes Wide Shut.

Dr Morbius, Tuesday, 14 October 2008 19:50 (eleven years ago) link

definitely, watching all those endlessly smooth, swooping & gliding tracking shots in La Ronde and Le Plaisir makes it clear how much Kubrick ripped from Ophuls. all these breakaway sets where the camera quickly follows people through walls, through windows, up two flights of stairs...

had forgotten EWS was also Schnitzler-based. the themes are similar.

Milton Parker, Tuesday, 14 October 2008 20:15 (eleven years ago) link

Le Plaisir has that marvelous point of view dolly of the suicide jumping out the window.

Alfred, Lord Sotosyn, Tuesday, 14 October 2008 20:27 (eleven years ago) link

not just jumping out the window -- starts with her eyes glazing over, the camera pulling back from a wide shot containing both of them to suddenly -become- a POV shot as she runs up three flights of stairs, unlocks the window, and then the camera follows her three stories down and through the plate glass Terrarium ceiling.

how many times do you see a two person shot morph into a POV shot?

Milton Parker, Tuesday, 14 October 2008 20:37 (eleven years ago) link

Yeah, I'm relying on memory. The worst thing about the new DVD releases is that they'll efface my memories of scratchy VHS copies checked out of the university library.

Alfred, Lord Sotosyn, Tuesday, 14 October 2008 20:41 (eleven years ago) link

one year passes...

We saw last night La Ronde for the nth time.
Ophuls is truly one of the absolute greats.

Marco Damiani, Tuesday, 29 December 2009 14:59 (ten years ago) link

Let's file a class action law suit against the people responsible for keeping The Reckless Moment from a DVD release.

Hell is other people. In an ILE film forum. (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 29 December 2009 15:03 (ten years ago) link

Saw Lola Montes recently, right in the middle of a Ken Russell binge, and it seemed to fit right in, prefiguring not just Russell, but late Fellini and lots of their 60's and 70's contemporaries: wild, colorful, sexy, satirical, and with that anti-realistic, theatrical presentation.

Peter Ustinoff was great -one of those films when you see an actor who wound up getting paid just to turn up and be themselves, and suddenly realize how they established themselves in that position.

Soukesian, Friday, 1 January 2010 23:38 (ten years ago) link

three weeks pass...

La Ronde is flat-out incredible. So funny, joyous, humane, knowing, brilliant and inevitable. It's both the best movie about venereal disease and one of the best about the transience of affection I could imagine existing. And the way it becomes less magical, more matter-of-fact as the movie goes on (the MC reduced from Chaucerian mysticism to just a passing observer) betrays the ultimate truth of these hookups. It's like walking out of Wonderland. Sorry, waltzing. Incredible film. And the imagery throughout is perfection itself.

your favorite toy dinosaur ruined my asshole (acoleuthic), Friday, 22 January 2010 23:23 (ten years ago) link

Plus, that is the best opening shot in film. Fuck.

your favorite toy dinosaur ruined my asshole (acoleuthic), Friday, 22 January 2010 23:24 (ten years ago) link

I could write whole essays on the motifs of turning, swords, time, deceit, forgiveness, symmetry, Greek Gods, and age in this movie

your favorite toy dinosaur ruined my asshole (acoleuthic), Friday, 22 January 2010 23:34 (ten years ago) link

Also promises. And punctuality. Could be called That Punctual Object Of Desire

your favorite toy dinosaur ruined my asshole (acoleuthic), Saturday, 23 January 2010 01:32 (ten years ago) link

three weeks pass...

James Mason's little poem abt Ophuls:

A shot that does not call for tracks
Is agony for poor old Max,
Who, separated from his dolly,
Is wrapped in deepest melancholy.
Once, when they took away his crane,
I thought he'd never smile again.

Fusty Moralizer (Dr Morbius), Monday, 15 February 2010 14:40 (ten years ago) link

that's awesome, thanks morbs.

the new lola montès bluray is BUTTER.

amuse-douche (s1ocki), Thursday, 18 February 2010 15:57 (ten years ago) link

two years pass...

i had no idea danielle darrieux was still alive, but hey she's 95 today

madame boo berry (donna rouge), Tuesday, 1 May 2012 22:03 (seven years ago) link

Louis Jourdan and Joan Fontaine are both in their 90s too!

World Congress of Itch (Dr Morbius), Wednesday, 9 May 2012 15:01 (seven years ago) link

when the fuck will The Reckless Moment get a Criterion release

Exile in lolville (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 9 May 2012 15:03 (seven years ago) link

greater need for Letter to an Unknown Woman

World Congress of Itch (Dr Morbius), Wednesday, 9 May 2012 15:06 (seven years ago) link

lol @ Mason poem

rob, Wednesday, 9 May 2012 16:30 (seven years ago) link

Letter From An Unknown Woman is coming at a date tba from Olive Films, who've picked up the Repbulic library.

I can't speak for The Reckless Moment, but wouldn't be surprised if it eventually surfaced as a MOD from Columbia Classics By Request.

Leslie Mann: Boner Machine (C. Grisso/McCain), Thursday, 10 May 2012 05:51 (seven years ago) link

five months pass...


a short history of takei (clouds), Tuesday, 23 October 2012 14:23 (seven years ago) link

reviewed by Eric H too (tho the Sl4nt site is all wonky right now?)

crazy uncle in the attic (Dr Morbius), Thursday, 25 October 2012 14:31 (seven years ago) link

five months pass...

seen The Trouble with Money?

Pope Rusty I (Dr Morbius), Saturday, 13 April 2013 08:11 (six years ago) link


eight months pass...

Finally watched The Reckless Moment in an awful YouTube upload this morning. It's not of the first rank, but the bank accounts executive, pawnbroker, bartender, and post office employee are well-drawn, and Ophuls helps Joan Bennett interact with them and their spaces in a way that makes the community live.

the objections to Drake from non-REAL HIPHOP people (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 23 December 2013 20:45 (six years ago) link

just found out Lola Montez is buried in Brooklyn!

eclectic husbandry (Dr Morbius), Monday, 23 December 2013 21:23 (six years ago) link

two months pass...

Dana Stevens and Peter Labuza talk about Letter from an Unknown Woman here -- I'd forgotten the source novel is by Wes Anderson's inspiration Stefan Zweig.

images of war violence and historical smoking (Dr Morbius), Saturday, 22 March 2014 00:52 (six years ago) link

anyone seen Liebelei? It's on YT, but sans titles.

images of war violence and historical smoking (Dr Morbius), Thursday, 3 April 2014 15:28 (six years ago) link

ten months pass...

Just watched Madame de..., my first Ophuls. The story never generates the empathy I want and expect from my melodrama; certainly the fact that Boyer's is by far the most purely likeable character diverts our sympathies from the heroine. But my god, what a gorgeous film! I almost felt like I could have watched it without the subtitles and just luxuriated in the imagery. The time-spanning dance sequence, in particular, is something worthy of Welles.

I definitely need to see more by this guy.

That shit right there is precedented. (cryptosicko), Friday, 27 February 2015 00:41 (five years ago) link

Does it? That's a point worth pondering, for from the start (I've watched this movie about 10 times) my sympathies were with Boyer, and they've deepened. If anything, the film's on his side: he's the more complex one, ready to accept their arrangement as "superficially superficial" because Louise insisted on these terms, as he makes clear. He'll tolerate flirtations, the consummation of a love affair even, so long as she doesn't play him for a sucker in public.

guess that bundt gettin eaten (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 27 February 2015 00:47 (five years ago) link

Interesting. I like the idea of the film being on Boyer's side, though I do think that the presentation, particularly in the last 45 mins or so (roughly from the time Louise leaves for Italy), encourages an identification with Louise. I dunno, though; perhaps I'm forcing a reading of the film that is in keeping with the conventions of melodrama. It probably doesn't help that I just started reading Lauren Berlant's The Female Complaint (on melodrama and sentimentality in American culture, with what looks to be a fair bit devoted to Golden Age-era film) and that this is where my mind is at right now (I didn't time the starting the book and watching the film at the same time; it was just Madame's turn in my PVR queue). The "superficially superficial" arrangement certainly complicates things, though, in that it renders Louise far more ambiguous than the usual sentimental heroine.

That shit right there is precedented. (cryptosicko), Friday, 27 February 2015 01:03 (five years ago) link

To me it's clear Ophuls wants us to see she's a silly woman undeserving of both De Sica and Boyer's love but it's not unsympathetic.

guess that bundt gettin eaten (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 27 February 2015 01:07 (five years ago) link

I don't develop a rooting interest in film like this (except for everyone to get their heart broken, since they will)... unless the deck is reslly stacked, like against Joan Fontaine in Letter from an Unknown Woman. (And the Jourdan character is even worse in the Stefan Zweig novella.)

touch of a love-starved cobra (Dr Morbius), Friday, 27 February 2015 02:43 (five years ago) link

three weeks pass...
one year passes...

saw this 1936 film tonight, almost up to Brody's rave, def anticipates La Ronde, Letter etc.

The Hon. J. Piedmont Mumblethunder (Dr Morbius), Friday, 5 August 2016 02:44 (three years ago) link

two months pass...

i had no idea danielle darrieux was still alive, but hey she's 95 today

She's still around and now 99. Despite this:

Patti Labelle is in here with her high but mediocre singing voice. (Tom D.), Wednesday, 19 October 2016 16:55 (three years ago) link

Bonne anniversaire, ma chérie!

Sketches by T-Boz (James Redd and the Blecchs), Wednesday, 19 October 2016 16:57 (three years ago) link

Not actually her birthday today btw, wouldn't want to be accused of initiating another internet hoax... not that I started the first one.

Patti Labelle is in here with her high but mediocre singing voice. (Tom D.), Wednesday, 19 October 2016 16:59 (three years ago) link

six months pass...
one month passes...

went to a double feature of 'lola montes' (which i'd not seen before - admired it more than loved it) and a fairly beat-up/badly subtitled print of 'liebelei' (1933) tonight. marcel ophuls (who turns 90 this year and who worked on LM) did a q&a in-between the films. choicest quote: "my father didn't love courtesans, he loved whores"

donna rouge, Sunday, 4 June 2017 07:30 (two years ago) link

four months pass...

Adieu Danielle Darrieux.

Virulent Is the Word for Julia (, Thursday, 19 October 2017 11:57 (two years ago) link

je ne vous aime pas
je ne vous aime pas
je ne vous aime pas

morning wood truancy (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 20 October 2017 12:48 (two years ago) link

two months pass...

Molly Haskell on Letter:

Some essayists have felt that Ophuls completely identified with his heroine and expected the same of his audience. It’s true he shared with his female characters a feeling of displacement, an alienation from the culture at large. Their preoccupation with fate and chance give their stories an air of ephemerality....

In watching it again, I find that Stefan has become every bit Lisa’s equal, a vividly imagined lost soul as captivating as he is heartbreaking. Hardly less poignant though with little screen time are the son, Stefan Jr. (Leo B. Pessin), and the husband (Marcel Journet), one of those military men (like Charles Boyer in Madame de) whose conventional views and demeanor mask an obvious depth of feeling. Johann represents correct society, but also the ideals of duty and obligation, by no means trivial. He even married her with the full knowledge of her affair and the child’s parentage. Indeed, she will be urging the boy to call Johann Father even as she is leaving him forever, leaving a ten-year-old Stefan who needs and can appreciate her love for the adult and dissipated Stefan who can’t. And here’s the crux of it: if Stefan repeatedly fails to see her clearly, fails to recognize her as the savior who might redeem his life and vocation, so she fails to appreciate the unlikelihood of his transformation, and especially the depth of his degradation at the end. Rarely has the nature of love as fantasy been so richly understood or so exquisitely expressed.

ice cream social justice (Dr Morbius), Thursday, 21 December 2017 20:34 (two years ago) link

two years pass...

Just watched Liebelei (1933, a well-worn and poorly subtitled copy on YouTube). The "military men (like Charles Boyer in Madame de) whose conventional views and demeanor mask an obvious depth of feeling" are in full effect--Fritz's duel with the baron is negotiated in high-level discussions of the sort one would associate with an armistice treaty. And Dori, Fritz' playboy roommate, when faced with serving as Fritz' second in that duel, is so disgusted by the prospect that he talks of resigning his commission and emigrating to a Brazil coffee plantation.

I suppose it's oversimplification to reduce all of Ophuls' films to "love never wins in the end, but it's glorious while it lasts"?

Life is a banquet and my invitation was lost in the mail (, Saturday, 4 April 2020 00:59 (five days ago) link

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