For Reel

The Reckless Moment (1949)
January 27, 2012, 5:54 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Max Ophüls

Adapted from Elisabeth Sanxay Holding’s novel The Blank Wall, which would also serve as the source material for a 2001 film entitled The Deep End with Tilda Swinton in the leading role, The Reckless Moment is the last picture that Max Ophüls made in Hollywood, and it is among the biggest deviations that he made from the romantic films that he built his reputation on. Joan Bennett plays a woman who attempts to cover up her daughter’s accidental murder of a callous, much older lover. After disposing of the body, James Mason shows up at her doorstep and blackmails Bennett, having found the love letters that the daughter had sent to the boyfriend prior to his death. In the way that Ophüls plays with morality and the shifting relationships between criminals and victims, the picture is familiar of Hitchcock. The scene in which Bennett is covering up the murder is shot with a number of long tracking shots, cutting intermittently to examine the eerily desolate landscape. Just as Hitchcock was fascinated by silence, Ophüls refrains from using any score in this sequence – all that is on the soundtrack is the sound of the boat’s motor as Bennett rides out into the sea. Besides the formal achievements, the picture is memorable due to Mason’s blackmailer, a predator who is nonetheless kind-hearted and wrecked with his own guilt. Watch how he defensively reiterates to Bennett that Nagle, the partner that he speaks of, is real. In the way that Mason delivers the line, the audience can come to any number of conclusions about the relationship between the two blackmailers, and how Mason himself is a victim of his accomplice.

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