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Max Ophuls: Motion and Emotion

July 20, 2007 - August 17, 2007

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La signora di tutti, August 5

The transience of love, the intransigence of memory, the circular nature of time: these are not easy things to film, but Max Ophuls filmed almost nothing but love, time, and memory in his richly imagined dramas. Master of the fluid image, wizard with the crane and dolly shot, "Max and his tracks" would follow characters in and out of rooms, up and down staircases, through walls and time as if the camera had the mobility of a spirit. His period films are almost obsessively set amid turn-of-the-century European splendor, the better to show themselves to be "only superficially superficial" (to borrow Charles Boyer's phrase from The Earrings of Madame de . . . ). Their delights and tactile pleasures give way to themes both more transcendent and more troubling, with a radically sensitive depiction of women at the center.

Our tribute to Max Ophuls (1902–1957) tracks a career that traveled, stopped, circled back, much like his movies; exile made the screen his only home. Born in Germany, he wanted to be an actor, quickly found he wasn't one, became a director, and never looked back (off-screen, that is). Forced out of Germany, he worked in France; forced out of Occupation France, he worked in Hollywood; at the top of his form, he returned to France for La ronde, Le plaisir, The Earrings of Madame de . . . , and Lola Montès.

The pleasures of Ophuls are the pleasures of cinema itself, the dizzying power of the visual to transport us through time into emotion. This is cinema, to the Max.

Judy Bloch
Publications Director

Friday, July 20, 2007
7:00 p.m. Letter from an Unknown Woman
Joan Fontaine pines for concert pianist Louis Jourdan, to whom she means nothing. "Of all the cinema's fables of doomed love, none is more piercing than this."—Time Out

Friday, July 20, 2007
8:50 p.m. La ronde
In a "witty version of Arthur Schnitzler's play showing love as a bitterly comic merry-go-round . . . Ophuls displays dazzling technical virtuosity and cinematic elegance."—Chicago Reader

Sunday, July 22, 2007
5:00 p.m. Liebelei
From Ophuls's early German period, an adaptation of a Schnitzler play about love that outlives life under an oppressive military authority.

Sunday, July 22, 2007
7:00 p.m. Le plaisir
In adapting three de Maupassant stories, Ophuls sardonically explores the distinctions between pleasure and happiness. "Illustrates not merely Ophuls's unparalleled sense of flow and texture, but also his proto-feminism."—Slant

Friday, July 27, 2007
7:00 p.m. Caught
Barbara Bel Geddes marries Robert Ryan for his money but discovers that the dream house is a prison. A darkly ironic Cinderella story, also starring James Mason.

Friday, July 27, 2007
8:50 p.m. The Reckless Moment
Housewife Joan Bennett must cope with a killing, blackmail, and the everyday pressures of domesticity in this stunning suburban noir. "An underrated gem."—Phillip Lopate

Sunday, July 29, 2007
5:00 p.m. The Trouble with Money
Ophuls's one Dutch film is a comic parable on the perils of capital.

Sunday, July 29, 2007
7:00 p.m. From Mayerling to Sarajevo
In this neglected masterwork, a historic love affair becomes "a fascinating study of repression and isolation . . . love as a shifting series of masquerades."—Paul Willemen

Friday, August 3, 2007
7:00 p.m. Happy Heirs
Ophuls's early musical comedy about the price of love is a Rhineland Romeo and Juliet.

Friday, August 3, 2007
8:35 p.m. Lola Montès
In Ophuls's audacious final film, a life of passion becomes the stuff of carnival. "The ultimate cinephilic object: a color-and-CinemaScope dream."—Boston Phoenix. With Martine Carol, Peter Ustinov.

Sunday, August 5, 2007
5:00 p.m. La signora di tutti
Italian star Isa Miranda as a reluctant femme fatale "rises to the heights of tragic self-realization so typical of the greatest Ophulsian heroines."—Andrew Sarris

Sunday, August 5, 2007
7:00 p.m. The Exile
Ophuls's first American film stars Douglas Fairbanks Jr. as a swashbuckling Charles II in "a poetic and pictorially lovely costume picture."—Village Voice

Friday, August 17, 2007
7:00 p.m. The Earrings of Madame de . . .
Following a pair of earrings, Ophuls's fluid camerawork tracks the course of love and the character of a class. "Perfection."—Pauline Kael. With Danielle Darrieux, Charles Boyer, and Vittorio De Sica.

Friday, August 17, 2007
9:05 p.m. The Tender Enemy
This rarely seen comic fantasy is a lovely roundelay of mothers and daughters, lovers and ghosts, past and presentiment.

Series curated by Susan Oxtoby.

PFA wishes to thank the individuals and institutions who have helped make this retrospective possible: Stefan Drössler, Munich Filmmuseum; Christophe Musitelli, Consulate General of France, San Francisco; French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Paris; Marleen Labijt, Nederlands Filmmuseum; Sue Jones, British Film Institute; Todd Wiener, UCLA Film and Television Archive; Sabrina Kovatsch, Transit Film; Laurence Braunberger, Les Films du Jeudi; Helena Brissenden, Sony Pictures; Jonathan Birkhahn, CBS Television Distribution; Paul Ginsburg, Universal Pictures; Sarah Finklea, Janus Films; Ingrid Eggers, Goethe-Institut San Francisco; and Cynthia Mortensen, Stanford Theatre.

Archival and restored prints are presented with support from the Packard Humanities Institute.