US / 84 minutes / bw / Rampart, Universal–International Dir: Max Opuls (i.e., Max Ophüls) Pr: John Houseman Scr: Howard Koch Story: Brief einer Unbekannten (1922; vt Letter from an Unknown Woman) by Stefan Zweig Cine: Frank Planer Cast: Joan Fontaine, Louis Jourdan, Mady Christians, Marcel Journet, Art Smith, Carol Yorke, Howard Freeman, John Good, Leo B. Pessin, Otto Waldis, Sonja Bryden.
This lushly produced romantic tragedy isn’t by any stretch a film noir and there was never any question of its having an entry in the Encyclopedia, yet it has a few of those noirish attributes that can give movies interest to adherents of the genre. Director Ophüls (CAUGHT , The RECKLESS MOMENT ) and costar Jourdan (The PARADINE CASE , JULIE ) made minor contributions to noir, while Fontaine’s contributions were more substantial: SUSPICION (1941), IVY (1947), KISS THE BLOOD OFF MY HANDS (1948), BORN TO BE BAD (1950), BIGAMIST, THE (1953), BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT (1956), SERENADE (1956) and of course REBECCA (1940). Also noirish are the flashback-oriented narrative and the sense of inevitably imminent disaster: from the moment that she sees the pianist Stefan Brand (Jourdan) moving in as the new upstairs neighbor, Vienna adolescent Lisa Berndle (Fontaine) is stepping into something almost indistinguishable from the noir quicksand. “This way lies doom,” all the signs say, and yet that’s the route she chooses to take.
The young Lisa Berndle (Joan Fontaine) gets underfoot as the movers bring in the new tenant’s furninshings.
Around 1900 in Vienna, Stefan Brand is a prodigious pianist whom the critics are in the lazy habit of comparing to the young Mozart. His neighbors are the Berndles, daughter Lisa and her widowed mother (Christians). In no time at all, Lisa Berndle develops a powerful crush on the handsome, musically prodigious newcomer; Stefan’s butler John (Smith), a dumb-mute, observes with wry smiles and a genuine fondness for the girl. But then Lisa’s mother decides to remarry, taking as her husband the well-to-do fusspot Charles Kastner (Freeman); this involves moving from Vienna to Linz, a move Lisa tearfully resists. As Charles is attempting to get the family aboard the train to their new home, Lisa runs back to Stefan’s apartment, where she waits for hours to declare her love . . . only to witness him arrive with yet another in the long parade of giggling floozies he brings home.
Lisa goes to Linz, where Continue reading