A few words about…™ Letter from an Unknown Woman — in Blu-ray

This is a magnificent reproduction of the original film 4 Stars

Max Ophuls is one of those filmmakers, whose style is generally, instantly recognizable.

His use of extraordinarily fluid camera movements, and stylized lighting set him apart from the pack.

Should there be readers of this site unfamiliar with his work, grab copies of The Earrings of Madame De, and Lola Montes, and educate yourselves.

Mr. Ophuls moved around the world. From Germany to France, the Netherlands, Italy, to America, in 1941, directing his first film here, The Exile (with Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.) in 1947.

The following year, he created a magnificent work, Letter from an Unknown Woman, with Joan Fontaine and Louis Jourdan.

I’ll not discuss the film, as that would rob first time viewers of one of the great pleasures of cinema.

I’ve been waiting for someone — anyone — to bring out a quality copy of this film on home video for many years.

There’s good news, and good news.

The good news is that I can now retire my 16mm print.

The other good news is that Olive, by virtue of their Signature collection, has anointed us with one of the great Christmas gifts of 2017.

This is a magnificent reproduction of the original film, on Blu-ray, for which the terms new 4k restoration take on proper meaning.

Trust me on this one.

Purchase a copy, and find yourselves viewing the wonder of Franz Planer’s magnificent cinematography.

As to other credits, take note of the involvement of John Houseman as producer, Howard Koch as screenwriter, and then there are the actors.

Ignore this film, at your peril.

Image – 5

Audio – 5

Pass / Fail – Pass

Upgrade from original Blu-ray – Yes

Very Highly Recommended

RAH

Published by

Robert Harris

author,member

18 Comments

  1. Franz Planer. Well, since we don't have his "Roman Holiday" or "A Nun's Story"; but we do have an Olive accolade of the 4K kind; I say, why not? I'm all in. And this shall be a 1st time experience.:thumbs-up-smiley:

  2. Well, Mr. Harris, I bought the original Olive Blu-Ray of LETTER FROM AN UNKNOWN WOMAN on your recommendation, and now I just pre-ordered yet another Blu-ray to replace it. While I thought the original Olive release was pretty good for them, with only a sprinkling of negative dirt instead of a blizzard, this is one of the most sublimely photographed films ever made, and of course, with Max Ophuls, this is a case where light & shadow & camera movement aren't simply matters of technical mastery, but are portals into a soul, as well as the linchpin between past and present. Every time the camera moves in this film…but like you, I will say no more. I can hardly wait to see it again.

    I will however, if you don't mind, tell you a story about another Ophuls film. After the movie theater I managed for over a decade turned into a Gucci boutique, I ended up at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. There was an elderly guard there, and when I told him that I had been in the movie theater business, he told me that the first film he had seen as a young man in Manhattan (he had moved here from Puerto Rico) was Max Ophuls' THE EXILE. He remembered almost every shot, and whenever we would meet, he would talk about it. There's something about the images in an Ophuls film that remain with you for the rest of your life. And of course, one doesn't merely remember these images as attractive compositions, but rather they are filled with emotion and teeming with life. I envy all of you who will be seeing LETTER FROM AN UNKNOWN WOMAN for the first time.

  3. lark144

    Well, Mr. Harris, I bought the original Olive Blu-Ray of LETTER FROM AN UNKNOWN WOMAN on your recommendation, and now I just pre-ordered yet another Blu-ray to replace it. While I thought the original Olive release was pretty good for them, with only a sprinkling of negative dirt instead of a blizzard, this is one of the most sublimely photographed films ever made, and of course, with Max Ophuls, this is a case where light & shadow & camera movement aren't simply matters of technical mastery, but are portals into a soul, as well as the linchpin between past and present. Every time the camera moves in this film…but like you, I will say no more. I can hardly wait to see it again.

    I will however, if you don't mind, tell you a story about another Ophuls film. After the movie theater I managed for over a decade turned into a Gucci boutique, I ended up at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. There was an elderly guard there, and when I told him that I had been in the movie theater business, he told me that the first film he had seen as a young man in Manhattan (he had moved here from Puerto Rico) was Max Ophuls' THE EXILE. He remembered almost every shot, and whenever we would meet, he would talk about it. There's something about the images in an Ophuls film that remain with you for the rest of your life. And of course, one doesn't merely remember these images as attractive compositions, but rather they are filled with emotion and teeming with life. I envy all of you who will be seeing LETTER FROM AN UNKNOWN WOMAN for the first time.

    And then those new Ophuls fan cab move on to Earrings…

  4. This will be the same 4K master that Carlotta Films used for their gorgeous region B release in 2014. The Carlotta disc only included an unsubtitled featurette in French, as well as a half hour featurette in English on the director Max Orphuls. The Olive has a lot of supplements, including a commentary. I'll definitely be double-dipping with this one!

    Earrings of Madame de…was released by Criterion in 2013 and is one of the worst Criterion releases on blu-ray, a DNR debacle (together with Children Of Paradise). Fortunately, BFI released a decent transfer this year, for those with region B playback capability.

  5. Robert Harris

    And then those new Ophuls fan cab move on to Earrings…

    The first Ophuls film I ever saw was LA RONDE, at the Elgin on 8th Avenue & 19th street (it's now the Joyce) in 1969 as part of a Janus film festival. I think it was on a double bill with THE RULES OF THE GAME. Anyway, I was completely enchanted and transported to another realm, "Ophuls World", if you like, to the extent that the Renoir seemed flat by comparison. (It's not, but after seeing LA RONDE I was floating on air.) But they're all great, especially the ones he made on his return to France after the war: LA RONDE, LE PLAISIR, MADAME de.., & LOLA MONTES.

    Speaking of MADAME de…, Gaumont released a much superior HD master on Blu-Ray in 2014 than the one that is currently available on Criterion in the US (from 2013). And it's Region Free.

    https://www.amazon.fr/Madame-Blu-ra…UTF8&qid=1512454951&sr=8-1&keywords=madame+de

  6. lark144

    The first Ophuls film I ever saw was LA RONDE, at the Elgin on 8th Avenue & 19th street (it's now the Joyce) in 1969 as part of a Janus film festival. I think it was on a double bill with THE RULES OF THE GAME. Anyway, I was completely enchanted and transported to another realm, "Ophuls World", if you like, to the extent that the Renoir seemed flat by comparison. (It's not, but after seeing LA RONDE I was floating on air.) But they're all great, especially the ones he made on his return to France after the war: LA RONDE, LE PLAISIR, MADAME de.., & LOLA MONTES.

    Speaking of MADAME de…, Gaumont released a much superior HD master on Blu-Ray in 2014 than the one that is currently available on Criterion in the US (from 2013). And it's Region Free.

    https://www.amazon.fr/Madame-Blu-ra…UTF8&qid=1512454951&sr=8-1&keywords=madame+de

    I have both the Gaumont and the BFI of Madame de…, as well as the Criterion. The region B-locked BFI seems to have used the same master as the Gaumont but the transfer has a different contrast level and the grain is more pronounced. The blacks in the Gaumount look a bit more washed out in comparison. The BFI has the same 61 minute documentary on Max Ophuls (Max Ophuls, le painter de l'amour fatal) but with English subtitles. There is another 26 minute featurette (Working with Max Orphuls), also subtitled. For those who don't have multi-region players (surely a major disadvantage for art-house aficionados?), the Gaumont is way better than the Criterion.

  7. titch

    I have both the Gaumont and the BFI of Madame de…, as well as the Criterion. The region B-locked BFI seems to have used the same master as the Gaumont but the transfer has a different contrast level and the grain is more pronounced. The blacks in the Gaumount look a bit more washed out in comparison. The BFI has the same 61 minute documentary on Max Ophuls (Max Ophuls, le painter de l'amour fatal) but with English subtitles. There is another 26 minute featurette (Working with Max Orphuls), also subtitled. For those who don't have multi-region players (surely a major disadvantage for art-house aficionados?), the Gaumont is way better than the Criterion.

    Some of the problems with Madame de from getout reside with the original 2K scan. Eclair (the post house who screwed it up) had some dodgy elements to work with but they (or Gaumont) did not seem to have performed any wider ranging harvest for the two problematic sequences. For information, another French distribution company altogether, Impex has just finished a new 2K restoration of La Ronde, now available for exhibition. This will be far superior ot the recent English Blu Ray disc (Region B only) which was passbale if a temporary filler, but I have no word yet on whether it is the 93 minute Max-dictated edit, or the longer original cut 110 minute full version which is available around the traps from 1989 telecasts and an old VHS. I would hope for both, but if only one, the long cut. It is incredible, far more Walbrook, far more everything, and with hindsight and history behind us there's no need to honor Max's original prem night panic and stick with his short cut. Marcel "prefers" the short cut but he has no intellectual property rights here (as he does with Lola) so he can bugger off. Another headsup, Sans Lendemain (1939) has also been given a 2K restoration by Gaumont. It's one of his greatest movies.

  8. david hare

    Some of the problems with Madame de from getout reside with the original 2K scan. Eclair (the post house who screwed it up) had some dodgy elements to work with but they (or Gaumont) did not seem to have performed any wider ranging harvest for the two problematic sequences. For information, another French distribution company altogether, Impex has just finished a new 2K restoration of La Ronde, now available for exhibition. This will be far superior ot the recent English Blu Ray disc (Region B only) which was passbale if a temporary filler, but I have no word yet on whether it is the 93 minute Max-dictated edit, or the longer original cut 110 minute full version which is available around the traps from 1989 telecasts and an old VHS. I would hope for both, but if only one, the long cut. It is incredible, far more Walbrook, far more everything, and with hindsight and history behind us there's no need to honor Max's original prem night panic and stick with his short cut. Marcel "prefers" the short cut but he has no intellectual property rights here (as he does with Lola) so he can bugger off. Another headsup, Sans Lendemain (1939) has also been given a 2K restoration by Gaumont. It's one of his greatest movies.

    M. Ophuls, who is 90 years old, might be accorded a bit of respect.

  9. david hare

    Some of the problems with Madame de from getout reside with the original 2K scan. Eclair (the post house who screwed it up) had some dodgy elements to work with but they (or Gaumont) did not seem to have performed any wider ranging harvest for the two problematic sequences. For information, another French distribution company altogether, Impex has just finished a new 2K restoration of La Ronde, now available for exhibition. This will be far superior ot the recent English Blu Ray disc (Region B only) which was passbale if a temporary filler, but I have no word yet on whether it is the 93 minute Max-dictated edit, or the longer original cut 110 minute full version which is available around the traps from 1989 telecasts and an old VHS. I would hope for both, but if only one, the long cut. It is incredible, far more Walbrook, far more everything, and with hindsight and history behind us there's no need to honor Max's original prem night panic and stick with his short cut. Marcel "prefers" the short cut but he has no intellectual property rights here (as he does with Lola) so he can bugger off. Another headsup, Sans Lendemain (1939) has also been given a 2K restoration by Gaumont. It's one of his greatest movies.

    Great news that La Ronde has been restored – another classic and richly rewarding Max Ophüls masterpiece. I am only familiar with Ophüls' later films – I'd love to see HD versions of the films he made with James Mason, Caught and The Reckless Moment. I have Criterion's Lola Montès, but I've never really enjoyed it as much as Letter From An Unknown Woman and La Ronde.

    The director really hit his stride during his later films – he died much too early at 55.

  10. lark144

    The first Ophuls film I ever saw was LA RONDE, at the Elgin on 8th Avenue & 19th street (it's now the Joyce) in 1969 as part of a Janus film festival. I think it was on a double bill with THE RULES OF THE GAME. Anyway, I was completely enchanted and transported to another realm, "Ophuls World", if you like, to the extent that the Renoir seemed flat by comparison. (It's not, but after seeing LA RONDE I was floating on air.) But they're all great, especially the ones he made on his return to France after the war: LA RONDE, LE PLAISIR, MADAME de.., & LOLA MONTES.

    Speaking of MADAME de…, Gaumont released a much superior HD master on Blu-Ray in 2014 than the one that is currently available on Criterion in the US (from 2013). And it's Region Free.

    https://www.amazon.fr/Madame-Blu-ra…UTF8&qid=1512454951&sr=8-1&keywords=madame+de

    Thanks for this. I just checked Amazon France. Do the Carlotta releases of Madame De and Le Plaisir come with English subtitles?

  11. PGB

    Thanks for this. I just checked Amazon France. Do the Carlotta releases of Madame De and Le Plaisir come with English subtitles?

    Yes they do. Arrow also released a region B-locked version of Le Plaisir in October.

  12. PGB

    Thanks for this. I just checked Amazon France. Do the Carlotta releases of Madame De and Le Plaisir come with English subtitles?

    Yes, both MADAME DE… & LE PLAISIR have English subtitles. Both are distributed by Gaumont, and both are region free. When the main title comes up, click on "Versions." Then click on "Avec" under the heading "Sous-Titres Anglais."

    https://www.amazon.fr/Madame-Blu-ra…UTF8&qid=1513268716&sr=8-1&keywords=Madame+de…

    https://www.amazon.fr/Plaisir-Blu-r…coding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=913G1P5MKTZ8PE9S8SCQ

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