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Letter from an Unknown Woman


CoopsGal
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In Vienna, about 1900, a dashing man arrives at his flat, instructing his manservant that he will leave before morning: the man is Stefan Brand, formerly a concert pianist, planning to leave Vienna to avoid a duel. His servant gives him a letter from an unknown woman, which he reads. In flashbacks we see the lifelong passion of Lisa Berndle for him: first as a girl who was his neighbor; next as a young woman who, in secret, has his child; then as a mature woman who meets him again and abandons husband and son to be with him. Each time he does not remember who she is or that they have ever met. By morning, he has finished the letter, and her husband awaits satisfaction.

 

I just finished watching this movie last night and it hit somewhat close to home in the obsession aspect.

I love this movie dearly and I just wish it weren't so darn expensive on Amazon/Ebay.

 

Hopefully TCM will air it sometime soon...

 

Part 1 of 9:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vGIVrm_oYVQ

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I have always had a strong connection to this film, too, Kim---when I first saw it as a teen I even found a copy of the book it's based on because the story meant so much to me.

 

I recently received the U.K. dvd and watched it just a week or so ago. I haven't watched the featurette about it yet, though it should be good. I think it one of the loveliest, most unique of film love stories. And perhaps many people can identify with it, or did a long time ago before our graceless age.

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Why isn't Max Ophuls worshipped? I am hard pressed to think of another director whose camera is as lush and sweeping, but whose stories at their core are as dark.

 

I saw *Letter from an Unknown Woman* for the first time a month or two ago and was completely taken in. It is beautiful.

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Ophuls certainly deserves more appreciation, based on the handful of films I've seen. The one I'm most looking forward to finally watching is Earrings of Madame de....

 

I want to add that of all the movies I've seen Louis Jourdan in, I think this one contains his most convincing and moving performance. He is certainly underrated, perhaps because of his looks. In this case they make him ideal casting for part of a gifted and handsome musician who wastes every splendid opportunity that life presents him. In fact, in many respects, I am more fascinated by his character now than I was when I used to watch this movie constantly just for the Joan Fontaine character.

 

The ending is one of the most fitting, it just feels perfectly right.

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Miss G - Earrings of Madame de.. is one I haven't seen either, and was not even released in the Janus box set last year. I have requested this title several times on TCM request a movie - maybe someone will read our posting here and schedule it on TCM imports soon.

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*Why isn't Max Ophuls worshipped? I am hard pressed to think of another director whose camera is as lush and sweeping, but whose stories at their core are as dark.*

 

I was very much intregued by the film. It was both light and sweet, yet also dark and depressing. I'd love to see more Max Ophuls films; he's a brilliant director.

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Bonjour, Chio:

 

Earrings of Madame de... was playing for several weeks last summer at the Film Forum and I kept meaning to go but I never made it. Now I regret it. Isn't Charles Boyer in this movie? I think you've indicated he's not a favorite of yours, but I adore him and find him very interesting to watch. He doesn't express himself like any other actor I've ever seen. That's another wonderful aspect of the older movies, the performers were so unique.

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Yes, M. Boyer is in it; and, yes, he is not one of my favorites; and, yes, I like him in Earrings of Madame de... Consistency is not necessarily my strong suit. My guess: (1) hearing him in French & reading him in English is preferable to hearing him in English, and (2) Ophuls is preferable to Cukor.

 

Never let it be said that I can't be petty.

 

P.S. I also like *Daisy Kenyon* even though on paper I would think that I wouldn't. So it goes. Hope you see more Herr Otto than I got around to. The next class I'm taking is on the films of Powell & Pressburger made during WWII. More films that push my envelope.

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Nice to hear from a guy who likes Daisy Kenyon, that is a surprise.

 

I just love the kind of "schooling" you get; enjoy the Powell/Pressburger journey! Are you already a fan or no? I love the way they look and Black Narcissus is probably my favorite by them. However, I'm not a huge fan of their movies in the main, I can't put my finger on just why.

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I'm taking the Powell/Pressburger class because (a) they are generally critically acclaimed and I need the exposure, (B) those Powell films I have seen, for the most part, I have liked, though like you I am not a huge fan, and (3) a good friend is teaching/moderating the class and he is incredible -- enthusiastic, knowledgable, stimulating and has never failed to expose me to films that I would otherwise never see. I think this is the 7th class I've taken with him (Unknown Noir I & II; Written by Sturges; Westerns of Tourneur; American Independents of the '60s; Hollywood Directors Post-Code), which is how we became friends. And he just had a film accepted at the South by Southwest Film Fest -- exciting stuff.

 

The Powell films I've seen:

 

*The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp* -- didn't do alot for me, so I need to try again

*I Know Where I'm Going* -- after Sunrise, perhaps the loveliest film I've seen

*Black Narcissus* -- another lovely one

*Red Shoes* -- the 1st one I saw; the 1st Mrs. ChiO was a ballerina (and still teaches); I don't think I was quite prepared for the rhythm of this

*PeepingTom* -- I know what you're thinking: "You liked this, didn't you?"; no -- I loved it

 

Films to be shown in the class:

 

*Contraband* (1940)

*One of Our Aircraft is Missing* (1941)

*The 49th Parallel* (1941)

*The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp* (1943)

*A Canterbury Tale* (1944)

*A Matter of Life and Death* (1946)

 

http://www.facets.org/asticat?function=web&catname=facets&web=cinematheque&path=/filmschool/wintersession2008

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Wow, ChiO---that's really great. They don't have anything half so interesting as those classes here in New York, unless it's on the full-time University level and even there I doubt it. I was impressed by the line-up of films for the Politicians in the Movies class...that's probably the one I'd take. I wonder why. ;)

 

It's funny, but even though ballet was my first love I never really warmed to The Red Shoes. However, I haven't seen it in ages.

 

Does the class get to watch the films in a theater, on a big screen?

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It sounds like Chiowens have great taste! There are several venues in NYC, of course, so I can't complain. Yes I can. The Film Forum is in major need of a renovation. Anatomy of a Murder had a line snaking around the block, I don't know how everyone found a seat. They need a bigger venue, a bigger screen and better seating. But one takes what one can get.

 

I look forward to your impressions of the Powell/Pressburger education. ;)

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  • 8 months later...

I started looking for a Charles Boyer thread and didn't find any, but I did find this and enjoyed reading the thread since I just watched the new Criterion DVD of *Earrings of Madame de...* last night.

 

(Criterion issued 3 Max Oph?ls movies on DVD this week).

 

One thing that struck me is how much more interesting Charles Boyer seemed as a French-speaking character; this is only one of 2 movies in which I've seen him playing one (the other was *Mayerling*, the '36 version).

 

By all means I highly recommend the new DVD of *Madame de...* as their video transfer is absolutely superb and it comes packed with great bonus features, including a nice little booklet that has some nice essays in it (including one by Molly Haskell).

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 4 weeks later...

I cannot praise enough this masterpiece. It's a very special film for me for very different reasons and I long to have a good DVD edition of it. It's simply Joan Fontaine's finest film and one of the greatest and most melancholic dramas of all time. I could watch it endless times. Definitely in my top three list along with "*Portrait of Jennie*" (1948) and "*Dodsworth*" (1936).

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I fell in love with this movie after seeing it on YouTube. It's a shame they look it down, but it is available on Ebay for $4. It's such a beautiful and unique story of love; and Joan Fontaine does such a wonderful job in portraying the character.

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