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I Found It At the Movies: 1948–Letter from an Unknown Woman (Max Ophüls)

I Found It At the Movies: 1948–Letter from an Unknown Woman (Max Ophüls)

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Inspired by Dave Hicks’ excellent blog, I have decided to write about my favorite film for each year from 1926-2008.

1948: Letter from an Unknown Woman (Max Ophüls)

Guess when it comes down to it, I’m still a romantic. An idealist, too. Put those two things together in a film, particularly in that order, and I could be in big trouble. Then add to it by keeping this “idealistic romance” mostly unrealized, and I’m in even deeper.

You could call the above my version of a synopsis of this Ophüls film. It also helps explain why this film has as devastating an emotional impact on me as any film ever made.

But that’s not all. Take the elements above and add to it one of the most operatic of all directors, the master Max Ophüls, and you’ve got a real doozy. It’s my favorite Ophüls film (although I do have a few gaps), my favorite Joan Fontaine film (and that’s saying a lot) and without a doubt my favorite film of 1948. And if it came out in any year this decade, other than ’40 or ’42, I would say the same.

What moviemakers can learn: Cynicism and irony might still be the most popular sentiments of the day. But idealism and romance always have an audience, particularly when they’re handled as expertly as they are here.

Other contenders for 1948: There are still a few major titles from this year that I’ve yet to see. These include Frank Borzage’s Moonrise, Leo McCarey’s Good Sam, André De Toth’s Pitfall and Robert Flaherty’s Louisiana Story. From what I have seen, I really like Howard Hawks’ Red River, Luchino Visconti’s La Terra Trema, Laurence Olivier’s Hamlet, Vittorio De Sica’s Bicycle Thief, John Huston’s Key Largo, John Farrow’s The Big Clock and Orson Welles’ Macbeth. I love Abraham Polonsky’s Force of Evil and Roberto Rossellini’s Germany Year Zero. And my closest runner-up is Michael Powell’s The Red Shoes.

After living in Los Angeles for seven years, Jeffrey Goodman returned to his hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana to direct The Last Lullaby. Co-written by the creator of Road to Perdition, and starring Tom Sizemore and Sasha Alexander, The Last Lullaby was filmed entirely in and around Shreveport and financed by 48 local investors. Goodman is now at work, raising money for his next feature, Peril.

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