Robert Beksinski’s review published on Letterboxd:
David's Movie entry #27: February 8th, 2015
In Memory of David Eisen
I wonder if many would agree that one of the most remarkable attributes of famed director Max Ophuls is simply that no matter where he is at in the world, he has the ability to make a great film anywhere. Whether it be Germany, Italy, the U.S.A. or France, language barriers are of no issue as well as working with a variety of culturally different casts and crews. Letter from an Unknown Woman is from Ophul's Hollywood period to where he found safe haven during WWII and away from the tumultuous uncertainty of Europe. Admittedly Ophuls did have a more difficult time getting started in Hollywood and was inactive for a period of about 6 years until he could get going with the support of other fellow and quite famed in their own right directors such as Preston Sturges. This film remains by popular opinion as his best from his time spent in America.
I'm not that far into his filmography personally to make a opinionated call on the matter but I will say I truly enjoyed and appreciated the work of Ophuls in this film. From the little that I have actually seen from him thus far I can already tell the specific themes that he is drawn to and that which keep recurring in multiple examples of his films. The most adamantly portrayed is that of a woman suffering from either unrequited or lost love. The other is that of honor betrayed in the name of love and this film to be the second I have seen to share the act of dueling caused by an affair just like his popular German produced Liebelei. So I can certainly see the side of human nature that most interests Ophuls and that he chooses to display on celluloid.
As for technique being that Ophuls is so extremely well known for his visual capabilities as director and being detailed oriented in staging and camera work, I can see alot of that present here albeit probably in a lesser progressive state in his career. Basically meaning that I can predict (especially from what I have read so far on his work) that his later French productions are of more lavish qualities however for a Hollywood production Ophuls manages to insert quite a bit of his own style.
Letter from an Unknown Woman also contains a wonderful script that knows how to conceal and carry a mystery of human despair. The ending in particular is very potent in a silent and majestic way. To see responsibility be taken even in a possible deadly scenario to where responsibility never carried any true meaning before. Selfishness is swiftly replaced with selflessness or maybe even digging deeper to find out that one's sense of worth has been exhaustively depleted in the instance of reading one letter.