La Signora di Tutti (Ophuls, 1934): BFI Southbank, NFT2, 6.10pm
This film was selected by influential critic Laura Mulvey, who will introduce the screening. It is playing in the Passport to Cinema series at BFI Southbank.
Mulvey has regularly placed this film in her Sight & Sound top ten of all-time list which is the reason she is talking about the movie tonight. It will be fascinating to hear her take on one of director Max Ophuls' least known but equally fascinating films.
Observer film critic Philip French explains the background to the film here: 'Max Ophüls (1902-57) was firmly established in Germany as a director for
stage, radio and cinema with one minor movie masterpiece (Liebelei)
to his credit when the Nazis came to power. As a prominent Jewish
artist, he went into exile never to return, working elsewhere in Europe,
then in Hollywood, before returning to France to make La Ronde
and three other masterworks before his untimely death. Stories of love
at first sight, frustrated affairs, tragic encounters – these were his
forte, with haunting, romantic music, and exquisite tracking shots that
take the audience down streets, through rooms, up and down staircases. All this is here in the one movie he made in Italy, La Signora di tutti ("Everybody's Woman"), which brought him the prize for technical achievement at the second Venice film festival.
The enchanting Isa Miranda plays a chanteuse and Italian movie
star who reviews her career in flashback from the operating table after a
suicide attempt, recalling the lives she has innocently ruined.'
Ophuls was taken up by film academics in the 1970s and 80s and was the subject of a major clash in film studies and ideology between those involved in the magazines Screen and Movie. La Signora di Tutti was not available on a decent 16mm print in Britain until the early 1980s and has not been written about as extensively as other Ophuls' movies. For those interested in later studies of tonight's film I can recommend Michael Walker's article in Movie (vol No36) and Mary Ann Doane's essay in Cinema Journal from 1988.
Chicago Reader review:
'Max Ophuls made this melodrama in Italy in 1934, following his flight
from Germany. With its large-scale, operatic effects and aggressively
experimental style, it's clearly a young man's film, yet contains more
of the mature Ophuls than any early work of his I've seen: the elaborate
flashback structure employed to tell this tale of a movie star's
romantic entanglements anticipates Lola Montes, and the cold, static beauty of lead actress Isa Miranda suggests the sublime emptiness of Danielle Darrieux in The Earrings of Madame de....
Ophuls's camera glides and glides, as it always would, yet at this
early point the camera movements don't have quite the emotional
refinement they would acquire later on. Technique, in Ophuls's case,
seems to precede specific meaning, but the emotional outlines are clear.'
Here is an extract.