Letter From An Unknown Woman (1948, Max Ophuls)

Set in Vienna, 1900, same as La Ronde. My third Ophuls movie, and the third with horse-drawn carriages.

Seems a straightforward old-hollywood love story at first, then seems a lot more grown-up and complex than its contemporaries after it’s over (and especially after checking out the DVD extras which conveniently explain everything so I don’t have to put in much thought myself).

Joan Fontaine lives in the same building as a famous concert pianist and falls madly in love with him. She lives her whole life thinking of him, but only meets him twice… once for a dream date at the end of which she gets pregnant, and again years later in a sad imitation of that date, where she desperately hopes he’ll recognize her, but he just recycles the same lines he used years earlier. She flees again, and as she and their son are dying of cholera, she writes him a letter telling her life story. He stays up all night reading it, forgetting to flee the duel he’d agreed to the night before with her husband. Nice.

Lots of graceful camera movements, one sick super excellent part I didn’t notice until watching the documentary (bottom screenshot) where she stands atop a staircase and watches him enter his apartment with a girl, repeated again later in the movie with the same camera position but with her as the girl. The kind of movie I like somewhat while watching, and like a lot more when it’s over… worth seeing again.

The novel by Stefan Zweig was filmed at least four other times. Ophuls made this between The Exile and Caught during his Hollywood period. The same year Welles made Macbeth, Hawks made Red River, Hitchcock made Rope, and the Italian Neorealist movement was taking off.

Joan Fontaine, star of Rebecca, Suspicion and Beyond a Reasonable Doubt:

Candy apple scene:

Louis Jordan, also of The Paradine Case, The VIPs, Octopussy and Swamp Thing: