Letter from an Unknown Woman

Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948)

Genres - Drama, Romance  |   Sub-Genres - Melodrama, Period Film, Romantic Drama  |   Release Date - Apr 28, 1948 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 86 min.  |   Countries - United States  |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Lucia Bozzola

A lush story of unrequited love in turn-of-the-century Vienna, Max Ophüls's Letter From an Unknown Woman (1948) sumptuously visualizes the emotional power of one woman's life-long fixation on a selfish man. The title missive from Joan Fontaine's "unknown" Lisa to Louis Jourdan's flippant Stefan begins a series of flashbacks recounting her all-consuming love for him and his inability to remember her, even after he seduced her once and impregnated her. Ophüls's fluid shooting style communicates the passion that Lisa cannot articulate until it is too late, with lyrical camera movements that linger over Lisa's fascination with anything related to her one night with Stefan and evocative shots of the curved staircase leading to Stefan's apartment. The elegantly detailed period sets and costumes reveal the privileged life that Lisa abandons for Stefan, while subtly suggesting that she knows nothing about him beyond his entrancing surface. Though it was not initially a success, the gracefully romantic Letter From an Unknown Woman has since come to be considered Ophüls's best American film.