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Entries in Letter from an Unknown Woman (3)

Friday
Jun 26 2015

Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948)

Continuing the theme of looking back at 1948 ahead of this weekend's Smackdown.Here'sAngelicadiscussing one of Joan Fontaine's greatest roles...

A few years ago when working at the Chicago International Film Festival I got into a conversation with a coworker about classic Hollywood actresses who,for whatever reason,do not connect with modern women as much as they did in their own time.The conversation centered on Norma Shearer but I think it can also apply to Joan Fontaine.I've often had trouble introducing my friends to Fontaine.Sure,they may likeRebeccabut the tenor of her infatuation and willingness to lose her identity in love always hits a sour note.At her best,Fontaine made martyrdom on the altar of love an art form.This was never clearer than in the 1948 Max Ophuls film,Letter from an Unknown Woman.IfNow,Voyagerrepresents the women's picture at its most transformative,Letter from an Unknown Womanshows the genre at its most tragic and masochistic.

Based on the novella by Stefan Zweig,the film begins in Vienna 1900.We meet Stefan (Louis Jordan) a rakish pianist planning to run out of town before a scheduled duel.Before he can do so his mute servant (Art Smith) gives him the titular letter.It begins ominously,"By the time you read this letter I may be dead."

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Sunday
Jun 21 2015

Meet the Panelists for 1948's Smackdown

The nextsupporting actress smackdownis just one week away.UPDATE 06/28:HERE IT IS.The panelists are watching John Huston'sKey Largo,the immigrant dramaI Remember Mama,and best picture contendersJohnny Belindaand Laurence Olivier'sHamlet.

MEET THE PANELISTS
Here's a little bit about our panel to prep you for our conversation as they finish up their screenings...

First Timers

ABDI NAZEMIAN (Screenwriter / Novelist)
Abdi Nazemian is the screenwriter ofThe Quiet,Beautiful Girl,Celeste in the City,and the short filmRevolution.His first novelThe Walk-In Closetrecently received the Lambda Literary Award for Best Debut.He and his children live in Los Angeles.Follow him on Twitter@Abdaddy.

What do you cherish about 1948?

In my 1948 fantasy,I am dancingat the Mocambowith Rita Hayworth to Ella Fitzgerald'sHow High the Moon,then going home to my private screening room to watch Ava Gardner inOne Touch of Venusbefore retiring to bed (next to Gary Cooper,obviously) to read Truman Capote's debut novel on my Kindle.Wait,what year is it?".

CATHERINE STEBBINS (Film Blogger)
A librarian and professional film obsessive living in Providence,Catherineis best known for her in-depth Top Ten By Year project which can be found at her siteCinema Enthusiast(active since 2010).Contributor to Criterion Cast & Verite Magazine.Idols include Louise Brooks,Leonard Cohen,Joanna Newsom,Jim Henson,Isabelle Huppert,Michelle Pfeiffer inBatman Returns,and drag queens.
[Follow Catherine on Twitter]

What do you cherish about 1948?

To take the minute approach;little Bobby Henrey adorably saying 'Baines' and 'MacGregor' over and over inThe Fallen Idol;varying degrees of homoeroticism inRopeandRed River;Joan Bennett narrating in the Freudian-laced Gothic melodramaSecret Beyond the Door...("this is no time for me to talk of danger;this is my wedding day");Laurence Olivier making a hot blondeHamlet.And most of all,Letter from an Unknown Woman,MaxOphüls'sunparalleled story of unrequited love,in which Joan Fontaine's Lisa reflects on her life through the romanticized facade of fate.'

Returning Panelists

JOE REID (Freelance)
Joe Reid never went to film school,unless you count the film school of hard knocks,which he also didn't go to.That hasn't stopped him from writing about movies (and TV,but don't think less of him) for places likeThe Atlantic,Grantland,Slate,and more.One day,he'll have written about his love forThe Hours,Go,andMermaidsenough that he can finally close his laptop,satisfied that his work is done. You can experience the best (and worst) of him via hisTwitter.

What do you cherish about 1948?

1948 brings back so many memories;the Marshall Plan,the London Olympics,the Alger Hiss hearings,the Costa Rican Civil War.What a time to be alive.Or so I've heard.In reality,it would be one more year before my father was born,and while if I ever have a kid,I'll be certain to make sure he watchesKramer vs.Kramer,the shameful reality is that before this Smackdown,I'd only seenonefilm released in 1948.Alfred Hitchcock'sRope.It's too bad that one isn't reflected in the Oscar nominations of 1948,but part of the reason I wanted to participate in this particular year was to beef up my 1940s film vocabulary.Maybe I can move on from Olivier'sHamletto Welles'Macbeth....

TIM ROBEY (Film Critic)
Tim Robey has been reviewing films for the Daily Telegraph since 2000,alongside a few interviews,book reviews,and more or less whatever else they throw at him.He turns up periodically on Radio 4's The Film Programme and Front Row,Monocle FM radio,and BBC Film Twenty-Whatever,as long as he has a new jacket to wear on it.His writing is mostlyhere. His recommendations series ishere.A picture of a half-grown labrador squishing a cat ishere.
[
Follow him on Twitter]

What do you cherish about 1948?

1948 is the year my mum,Wendy,was born,so I'm trying to imagine her early years in filmgoing and immediately skipping a decade.She told me once she used to be a great fan of Lee Remick,which makes sense,as this is ten years before her big breaks in movies;ditto James Garner,a favourite of her late sister Jill.They would have been right there forMary PoppinsandDarlingandThe Graduate,if they weren't out rocking the new Dusty Springfield look,with a strict curfew from my grandfather.I can't imagine them having an iota of time forStar Wars,the year before I was born – mum's always been allergic to science-fiction films,horror,or anything not set in a plausible version of the real world.These days,if we go to films together,it'll be forMilk,or a Christmas screener-viewing ofPhilomena.I think she started to watchUnder the Skinon a holiday flight and practically had to call the attendants to come and switch it off.Here's to mum and our barely-overlapping movie tastes!Love her loads.

And your host...

NATHANIEL R (Host)
Nathaniel is the founder of The Film Experience,亚博主页a reknowned Oscar pundit,and the web's actressexual ringleader.He fell in love with the movies for always atThePurple Rose of Cairo(1985) but mostly blames Oscar night (in general) and the 80s filmographies of Kathleen Turner & Michelle Pfeiffer.Though he holds a BFA in Illustration,he found his true calling when he started writing about the movies.He blamesBoogie Nightsfor the career change.[Follow him on Twitter]

What do you cherish about 1948?

True fact: I cannot live without Montgomery Clift inRed River.I did not exist before seeing it.Or,rather,him.'48 also marks the technicolor reunion of my two favorite musical stars (Judy Garland and Gene Kelly) inThe Pirate.Finally,Alfred Hitchcock'sRopeand Vittoria de Sica'sThe Bicycle Thiefwere important discoveries on VHS when I was trying to learn about the movies as a teen cinephile.And now a shameful confession: I chose this year because it's the only one we've ever done,to my recollection,from which I'd previously seennoneof the movies involved.No,not evenHamlet.Not sure how that happened but now my shame is public!


What does 1948 mean to you dear readers?

Perhaps you have a favorite film or a movie you are ashamed to say you've never seen?

NOW PROCEED TO THE SMACKDOWN

Friday
Aug 24 2012

Movie Love

Hello,readers of The Film Experience –亚博主页Matt Zurcher,here.Aside from joining in on a few recent editions of Hit Me With Your Best Shot,it's my first time writing at The Film Experience.亚博主页I want to publicly thank Nathaniel for inviting me to cover for him today.In order to introduce myself,I wanted to make a little list focused on a trademark of this site – the adoration of actresses.

Is it possible to fall in love at the movies?I'm not talking about the fleeting arousal that Hollywood manufactures so well – I'm talking about that strange,lingering fantasy.Pauline Kael's book titles – "I Lost It at the Movies,""Going Steady,""Reeling,""When the Lights Go Down,"and "Movie Love"– all render moviegoing as a sexual experience.I can't disagree with Pauline.There is something deeply intimate going on between the viewer and the screen.Fiction isn't so far from Fact.When we're properly pulled in,we don't separate our feelings for the person sitting next to us from the person whose face is 20 feet tall.

These are five performances that continue to enchant me.Who have you fallen for in the dark?

5.Teresa Wright,The Best Years of Our Lives[Wyler,1946]


I want to give the biggest high-five to the casting director ofBest Years of Our Lives.Teresa Wright was not the most beautiful or charming choice to play the romantic lead and daughter of Frederic March's WWII veteran. But her presence inBest Yearsis warmer than a Snuggie.She is the ultimate girl to take home to your parents.She isn't sexualized and creates a portrait of calm concern for her family and relationships.She plays a young woman who believes in the value of emotional intimacy.Gregg Toland's photography can't be left out of this discussion.It's a perfect example of Hollywood manufacturing the impossible ideal that pushes film so close to us.

four more lovely ladies after the jump

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