Letter from an Unknown Woman
From December 13th to January 7th, the Film Society of Lincoln Center will be presenting Emotion Pictures: International Melodrama, an impressive 62-film tribute to that misappreciated but glorious genre. Some of the important directors whose work will be screened in 35mm prints include D.W. Griffith, Victor Sjöström, Charlie Chaplin, King Vidor, F.W. Murnau, Kenji Mizoguchi, Mikio Naruse, Leo McCarey, George Cukor, Douglas Sirk, Vincente Minnelli, Nicholas Ray, Federico Fellini, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, and Arturo Ripstein, alongside especially rare titles by Raffaello Matarazzo, Hugo del Carril, and Kim Ki-young.
One of the greatest works in the series—and one of the finest Hollywood films of the 1940s—is Letter from an Unknown Woman, directed by Max Ophüls, the story of an adolescent girl’s tragic love for a famous pianist. The outstanding screenplay was adapted by Howard Koch and Ophüls from the eponymous novella by Stefan Zweig (which was previously filmed in 1933—as Only Yesterday—by the neglected master, John M. Stahl, and which is also showing in this series in a 35mm print). Gloriously photographed in sumptuous monochrome by the extraordinary Franz Planer, the film features less elaborately choreographed long takes—in accord with studio system norms—than in the director’s celebrated European pictures. The lovely Joan Fontaine gives a magnificent performance in the lead role and the dashing Louis Jourdan is perfectly cast as the charming but ultimately pathetic object of her affections.Letter from an Unknown Womanwill be twice projected onto the impressive screen at the Walter Reade Theater in an exquisite, restored 35mm print from the UCLA Archive on December 16th and 26th.
Another terrific film in the series is the dazzling, immensely moving The Cranes Are Flying from 1957—by the underappreciated Mikhail Kalatozov—another doomed romance, set in the Soviet Union and beginning on the eve of World War II. The astonishing long takes here—and elsewhere in the director’s œuvre—are even more technically remarkable than those in Ophüls, but Kalatozov’s style is just as marked by his reliance on the wide-angle lens and his unorthodox camera-placement. The luminous Tatiana Samoilova—who also starred in the director’s stunning The Letter Never Sent of 1959—is unforgettable as the suffering protagonist. A good 35mm print of The Cranes Are Flying from Janus Films screens twice at the Walter Reade Theater on December 17th and the 30th.
Emotion Pictures: International Melodrama
December 13, 2017 – January 7, 2018
Walter Reade Theater
165 W 65th St.
New York, NY 10023