Thursday, June 20, 2002


This movie has many fans, but I can't number myself among them. It is undeniably a lovely looking film and I like the performances of Joan Fontaine and Louis Jourdan, but overall, it struck me as just an average romantic melodrama where all the characters needed a couple of good slaps across their faces. Fontaine is a woman who has spent her entire life in love with a man she barely knows, Jourdan. When she's a teenager, he, a struggling but very promising musician, moves into her building and she develops a crush on him that never goes away. Although he barely knows she's alive, she fixates on him and turns away other, more realistically promising suitors. Many years later, they do meet up and have what amounts to a one-night stand which results in a child that he never knows about. She marries someone else and, a few more years later, meets up with him once again, when they are both older but not wiser, with more sadness in store all around.

The movie does eventually work up some power in its last 15 minutes, but the lack of strong supporting characters and lack of self-awareness on Fontaine's part cripple the picture. I actually feel worse for Jourdan's character, who squanders away his talent in playboy living. There are a few other characters in the movie, but none are fleshed out or given much screen time, so the two leads have to carry the whole narrative. It's always interesting to watch, due not just to stunning sets (both lush interiors and evocative Viennese exteriors) and costumes, but also to Max Ophuls' fluid directing style. Perhaps I've lost my sympathy for stories of tragic, unrequited love; I might have liked this more if I'd seen it when I was younger. Oddly, Jourdan in his older make-up reminded me of George Hamilton, which was comically distracting at times.

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