25 February 2020 | boblipton
Ophuls Is Not Awful
Max Ophuls converts three stories by Guy de Maupassant to the screen, and links them via a narration by Peter Ustinov.
Ophuls is one of those directors whose works I admire rather than enjoy. Sometimes I think that's his intention. His taste for formalism, whether it be a Schnitzler play he wishes to film, or his insistence on loading on every camera trick he can think of, as here, seems designed to call for comment by the attentive and cinematic viewer.... one might almost say 'voyeur.'
Perhaps that's Ophuls' intention: to make the audience think they're not watching a story, but spying on reality. Me, when I think it's a great story and great actors, as here, I would use the minimum artistry to tell the story; why paint the beautiful lily or gild refined gold? When the first story begins with a traveling take that lasts minutes, I wonder how much longer it's going to go on, rather than enjoying the event. When he shifts repeatedly to Dutch angles, I wonder what is so odd about the perspective, and when he shoots people in a house through windows, again, I wonder what's the point.
Perhaps it is a longing for the baroque. Or perhaps it's an inferiority complex, to show people who go on about the theater that cinema is an art, too, and anything you can do, we can do better!
Me, my taste is a lot more visceral than Ophuls. He's great, mind you. It's just that I appreciate him with my head and not my heart.