This 1948 film is, for my money, one of the all-time great romantic tearjerkers. Lush and romantic, Letter From an Unknown Woman may be very European in style, but was actually made by director Max Ophuls while he was in Hollywood.
It stars Joan Fontaine – an actress whose drippiness is normally downright annoying (Rebecca, anyone?) – gives a moving performance as Lisa, a young woman who has been obsessively in love with a suave cad of a concert pianist since she was a girl living in the same apartment block. He has only been aware of her existence for a fraction of the time that she has loved him, and their one encounter has dramatic consequences.
It’s easy to feel for Fontaine in this movie. Not only does she capture perfectly the young Lisa’s all-consuming, blind fixation with her neighbour but we can share it – after all, the object of her obsession is played by Louis Jourdan, who seldom looked more swoonsome.
Sumptuously filmed, against the beautiful backdrops of Vienna recreated by Ophuls, this is a real gem of a film – sophisticated and affecting in a way that it probably wouldn’t have been in the hands of most Hollywood directors at that time. If ever a film evoked the exquisite agonies of a young girl in love with love, this is it…