Tuesday 7 May 2019

On Blu-ray - David Hare sings the praises of the new edition of THE RECKLESS MOMENT (Max Ophuls, USA, 1949)

"I liked Mr Donnelly" says Sybil, played by the superb Frances Williams (left) to Joan Bennett, with a dying James Mason in Max Ophul's last American picture from 1949, The Reckless Moment.
This masterpiece, Ophuls' last in the USA before returning to France in 1950, is now available on a superb Blu-ray from Indicator in the UK.  (Click on the link at the end if I convince you to buy it. )
I've watched it through, then back to back with the PAL Second Sight Brit DVD which - hold your hat folks - was released way back in 2005. That was the film's first release on home video which makes the latest incarnation even more unexpected. And even more welcome. 
The second last sequence of Reckless, shows Bennett weeping copiously onto the dying Mason's hair (right), yet she is still so inhibited by her moral rectitude and her enslavement to "propriety" she can't touch or even kiss him. In the last sequence, Bennett still overwhelmed with grief is called to the phone, yet again, by the all-consuming family to attend to the father who has been absent, in fact invisible throughout the picture, like some kind of ghostly, even malevolent superego, or abstracted moral arbiter. Joan's babbling through a wall of tears is entirely for her and for the loss of Mason, and has absolutely nothing to do with her husband or her indifferent family.
This final image is one of the most powerful of domestic and human reality, not only in Max's films but in the movies generally. Having recently come out shaken from a Blu-ray screening of Zvyagintsev's astonishing, icy cold, magisterially terrifying and disturbing Lovelessfrom 2017, that should have been a tough call, but Ophuls' vision easily meets and even overtakes Zvyagintsev for sheer power of emotional authority, although any other comparisons between the two films must of necessity be slight.
James Mason, The Reckless Moment
What an incredible transitional film to the last French period, and what a farewell to American cinema!
The Indicator disc is published in a limited numbered edition of 3000 so I recommend early purchase. You can buy it if you Click on this link 

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