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February 25, 2011, 7:00 PM

Letter from an Unknown Woman

Film Screening
Directed by Max Ophuls

"Letter from an Unknown Woman is Ophuls's best known, most written about and admired film, very closely identified with particularly Ophulsian themes and style. Perhaps strangely, it was not initiated by him but by the independent producer William Dozier, who had long admired the Stefan Zweig novella and saw it as a perfect vehicle for his wife, Joan Fontaine. It was also perfect for Ophuls, allowing him to return to one of his preferred themes: adulterous love. Although the woman is necessarily at the centre of these triangular relationships, Ophuls deviates slightly from the original to create an opposition between the man who "loves love" and the representative of a militaristic ancien regime. With the character of Stefan, the repetitive compulsion of the seducer fuses with the repetitive activity of the pianist and washes over the aesthetic of the film itself, with its own repeated cinematic and narrative motifs."
-Laura Mulvey, Harvard University

With Joan Fontaine, Louis Jourdan, Mady Christians
US 1948, 35mm, b/w, 90 min.
Print courtesy of the UCLA Film and Television Archive

This screening is the second in a series on psychoanalysis and cinema produced in honor of the centenary anniversary of The New York Psychoanalytic Society & Institute. The Centenary Film Series is being produced in collaboration with The New York Psychoanalytic Society and Institute and the Friends of the Brill Library. A discussion with Philoctetes film coordinator Matthew von Unwerth and author Tom McCarthy will follow the screening.

Tom McCarthy is a writer and artist. His first novel, Remainder, won the Believer Book Award 2007 and is currently being adapted for cinema by Film4; his second novel, C, was a finalist for last year's Man Booker Prize. He is also founder and General Secretary of the International Necronautical Society, a semi-fictitious avant-garde network of writers, artists, philosophers, and political activists that surfaces from time to time through publications, manifestos, media interventions, and gallery exhibitions.

This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council.


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