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The Reckless Moment

USA 1949. Dir: Max Ophüls. 81 min. 35mm

Mise-en-scène virtuoso and master romanticist Max Ophüls (The Earrings of Madame de…, Lola Montès) directs Joan Bennett and James Mason in a superb noir melodrama. Bennett plays a prosperous suburban housewife who tries to cover up her daughter’s involvement in the death of a shady suitor. Mason is the crook who shows up to blackmail the family, but falls for Bennett instead. The shadowy cinematography is by noir notable Burnett Guffey (Johnny O’Clock, In a Lonely Place); the fluid camera and long takes are Ophüls specialties. The film was the expat director’s last in Hollywood, and his second noir in 1949 with Mason (Caught was the other). “A subtle, subversive critique of American ambitions and class structure ... A marvellous, tantalising thriller, [with] never-better performances from Mason and Bennett” (Geoff Andrew, Time Out).

REVIEWS

"One of the director's most perverse stories of doomed love ... Ophüls spins a network of fine irony out of the lurid material."

Chicago Reader | full review