Customer Reviews


26 Reviews
5 star:
 (20)
4 star:
 (5)
3 star:    (0)
2 star:    (0)
1 star:
 (1)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


81 of 82 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A heart-breaking tale of true love that goes unrecognised.
This film has got to be one of the most hauntingly beautiful films ever made. Starting with the line 'By the time you read this Letter I'll be dead', it relates the tale of a young woman (Joan Fontaine)'s love for a brooding pianist (Louis Jordan). This heart-breaking tale spans several decades from the time of their first meeting while she is still a child, to the night...
Published on 29 Sept. 2001

versus
1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Boring
I was bored by this film which I think I saw snippets of on television over a decade ago. There is nothing to commend it. Don't waste your time if you're a Joan Fontaine fan. It comes nowhere near the quality of 'Jane Eyre' or 'Ivanhoe'.
Published 8 months ago by Samuel Barber


‹ Previous | 1 2 3 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

81 of 82 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A heart-breaking tale of true love that goes unrecognised., 29 Sept. 2001
By A Customer
This film has got to be one of the most hauntingly beautiful films ever made. Starting with the line 'By the time you read this Letter I'll be dead', it relates the tale of a young woman (Joan Fontaine)'s love for a brooding pianist (Louis Jordan). This heart-breaking tale spans several decades from the time of their first meeting while she is still a child, to the night they spend together, and finally to the time of this letter's arrival. Joan Fontaine is stunning as the teenager who grows to maturity, always loving the man whose music used to delight her as she sat beneath his window, pretending he was playing only for her; while Louis Jordan is superb as the initially brilliant, temperamental pianist who becomes jaded and despised, apparently the victim of his own talent. The brief time they are together creates a warmth that pervades the whole film: one gets the sense that these people are truly meant to be together, and yet, even then, one knows that it will be her reticence and his fecklessness that are their downfall. She is the woman who could save him from himself, but is unable to speak of how she really feels, and he senses that there is more to her than to those women to whom he is generally drawn, but never values her sufficiently to find out the love of which she is really capable. The delight of the time they are together contrasts sharply with the pain of their separations: she acknowledges and knows the cause of this pain, while his life simply becomes increasingly problematic, his behaviour more erratic, while he searches for the meaning he can only find in her love. It is only through this letter that he realises what he could have had, and that it is too late to attain happiness. However, it is as a result of this letter that he is able to recognise who she was, and, to some extent, to requite her love.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Re-discover the true spirit of 'Romantic' cinema, 11 July 2008
By 
Mr. G. C. Stone "mgcs" (Newcastle, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Letter From An Unknown Woman [DVD] (DVD)
Modern Hollywood tells us that romances are just product for women - guns for boys, love for girls. Forget that, and instead go back to when films were made with intelligence, had depth and meaning, and could keep you enthralled by a great story, beautifully brought to the screen and impeccably acted. Here we trace a life-long quest of unrequited love, and the painful recognition that sometimes when we get what we want, reality can fall short of our ideals. In Hollywood land we get our emotional roller-coaster rides, crisis near the end, and a lovely resolution. In the grown up world of great cinema we know that redemption is possible, but often only when it is too late.....
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic film!, 24 Jan. 2009
By 
Helena (Ireland) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Letter From An Unknown Woman [DVD] (DVD)
It's hard to believe that the film was made over 50 years ago. Fantastic film made in a beautiful setting (Vienna) with beautiful music on the background, it makes all the difference to some modern films. Two main characters live in their own surreal world that is far from reality. It has a similar story line to 'Anna Karenina'. Highly recommend.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful Tragedy., 19 Dec. 2013
By 
Spike Owen "John Rouse Merriott Chard" (Birmingham, England.) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Letter From An Unknown Woman [DVD] (DVD)
Letter from an Unknown Woman is directed by Max Ophuls, who also co-adapts the screenplay with Howard Koch from the novella written by Stefan Zweig. It stars Joan Fontaine, Louis Jordan, Mady Christians, Art Smith and Howard Freeman. Music is by Daniele Amfitheatrof and cinematography by Franz Planer.

Masterpiece, the very definition of classic cinema is right here, a film that is both beautiful and tragic, a piece of cinema that's crafted with such great skill by all involved it's hard to believe some critics turned their noses up at it back on its original release.

Story is set in Vienna at the turn of the century and finds Lisa Berndle (Fontaine) as a teenager who has a crush on one of the neighbours in her apartment complex. That neighbour is concert pianist Stefan Brand (Jourdan), but Lisa will not get to know Stefan until some years later, and then only briefly, yet true love never dies does it?

The scene is set right from the off, the superb set designs of period Vienna come lurching out of the screen. Jordan stands straight backed and handsome, and then Fontaine a picture of angelic beauty. Ophuls brings his euro eye for details and flair to the party, his camera work fluid, yet compact, personal but still a distant and caustic observer to the corruptible folly of romantic obsession. And Planer mists up the photogenics as Amfitheatrof drifts delicate and dramatic sounds across the unfolding drama.

Narratively most of the picture is played out in the past, showing how Stefan Brand came to be reading a heart aching letter from a woman who loved and adored him. Not that he would know, such was his life of womanising and narcissistic leanings. Oh he could romance the best of them, charm a snake out of the basket, but quite frankly he's a cad, and a coward to boot. Maybe this letter from the unknown woman will shake him out of his self centred world? Give him a chance at redemption? Or maybe not...

The characterisation of Lisa Berndle (Fontaine simply magnificent) is stunning in its coldness. This is a woman who for the briefest of moments in her life, derails her shot at potential happiness, and the stability afforded her son, in the belief that Stefan Brand is the destined love of her life, that love will find a way. Her foolish obsession borders on insanity, she's so driven by a self-destructive persona she can't see this is no fairytale. There is much beauty on show, but the devilish hand of fate and some tragic realisations wait for the principal players here, Ophuls brilliantly blowing a blackened cloud over the culmination of tale.

Grand and opulent, heartbreaking and sad, Letter from an Unknown Woman is pure cinema, its narrative strength lies in the realisation that the vagaries of love has to be a two way thing. Brilliant film making. 10/10
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Romantic classic, 1 May 2009
By 
A. L. Rebbeck - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Letter From An Unknown Woman [DVD] (DVD)
This without doubt" letter from an unknown woman" one of the great classic romantic films. Starring at their best is Joan Fontaine and Louis JourdanBut the real star is the director Max Ophuls.This film is beautifully and very tenderley directed. It's one of my favourites.The ageing of Joan Fontaine is so well done. My favourite scene in the film is when they take a train journey in a train carriage with continous back projected hand painted scenery.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heaven sent or an easy lay, 26 Dec. 2011
By 
Four Violets (Hertford UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Letter From An Unknown Woman [DVD] (DVD)
On the face of it the plot is simple. Lisa, a school girl living in Vienna develops a crush on Stefan, the musician living in an upstairs apartment, and spends her life determined to meet him, to be important to him. When she finally does so, circumstances immediately separate them again, and they only meet again with tragic results for everyone involved.

As soon as the film started, "Vienna about 1900", a credit for "gowns", a horse and carriage bowling along through pouring rain, I knew this was going to be a great, complex film.

The video essay on the DVD confirmed my uneasy feeling that Lisa's melodramatic crush turned her into a manic stalker, possessed by a passion - a passion that prevented her from living her own, real, life. She became a masochist, depicting herself as a powerless victim even when a happy life with another, real man, is hers to choose. Tag Gallagher, film historian, suggests that debasement and denial are essential for passion, and eventually, the other side of the coin to masochism - sadism - emerges, and revenge.

Lisa saw herself as heaven sent, a romantic saint destined to help Stefan, to be his angel, his muse. But to him, was she just another of his easy lays? Did he ever really "see" her? Gallagher suggests these two people did not share a love, but a disease - total despair.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Watch and Learn, Film Maker, 31 Mar. 2014
This review is from: Letter From An Unknown Woman [DVD] (DVD)
It's closer to the nature of music or opera in fact apart from the sublime deceptive simplicity of its structure and formal purity. The theme of thwarted love is the stuff of classicism and perhaps in such a me me me age in the west, in one way the giving everything for 'my' love should play well. But of course, from the first moment this is doomed in the ultimately self-denying sense so it is very differently romantic from the emptiness we see around us. However, there are lots of conflicted issues beneath the beauty of the surface including the old old tale of male sexual indulgence and feminine desire constructed very differently. She, the willing victim. But he, at last realising with a kind of ironic awareness at his own resignation that the gods are playing with us. One of those 'perfect' films when everything is in order. His failure to 'see' is the point even when it is there before him on three key occasions. Like all classical drama also has its very clever moments of comment where others of course can 'see'.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars All For Love, 28 Sept. 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Letter From An Unknown Woman [DVD] (DVD)
A beautifully made film, with the elegance of fin-de-siècle Vienna as its backdrop, though there is a short period set also in the smaller Austrian city of Linz.
The story engages the viewer from start to finish, with the character of both the celebrated concert pianist, and the woman who is in love with him, well brought out.
Louis Jourdan and Joan Fontaine give impeccable performances as the above two leading characters, but the contribution of the minor players is important too.
Readers of Arthur Schnitzler will be well aware of the kind of world that Vienna at that time presented : the glittering elegance of the upper classes, the universal appeal of theatre, concert and ballet, the illicit love-affairs, the high profile of the military.....and the duels every so often, as a matter of course when one's honour was thought to have been besmirched. A wonderful film, by the master director, Max Ophüls, in black and white, format 4:3, my only gripe being that an hour and twenty minutes or so is not long enough !
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars At Long Last, 4 Sept. 2011
By 
Colin Thurlow (San Francisco, CA USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Letter From An Unknown Woman [DVD] (DVD)
It has taken easily a half-century for a film which had no great reception at the time of its release to find its rightful place in the cinema pantheon. Max Ophüls had at best a chequered career in the US and his focus on blighted love was not one audiences wanted to see. But Joan Fontaine was a name to be reckoned with and here gives a tremendously heartfelt performance. She is the film, aided and abetted by Ophüls, producer John Houseman with a graceful script by the much-lamented Howard Koch, a victim of the blacklist.

Making matters more problematic, Letter was an independent film and has long been unavailable in any format. It is only its reputation in the UK and later in Europe that has kept it from sliding into oblivion. The BFI has done us all a tremendous service with this release and is to be commended for the effort.

A side note. Letter is not Fontaine's favourite film and she chooses the 1943 The Constant Nymph, also unavailable, in its stead. She lives quietly in Carmel, California and has had several medical setbacks in recent years. This film stands the test of time, it is immortal, as few films are.

Colin Thurlow
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Fontaine tour de force., 15 May 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Letter From An Unknown Woman [DVD] (DVD)
I have read the reviews for this film and once again I am puzzled why people record a negative if what the reviewer comments upon does not quite live up to their expectations or view of the film. It is just as valuable, surely, to have one's eyes opened to flaws in a work as it is to find empathy with our fellow viewers.

For example, Alex da Silva's review (third paragraph) makes two perfectly valid points for which (I presume) he has earned a score of 0:3 for his pains.

It has to be said that Fontaine's portrayal of Lisa is remarkable in her ability to look the appropriate age of the part at a given time.

The letter that Fontaine writes in her final hours when suffering from typhus, and which functions as a thread linking the various episodes throughout the film, might well reflect a person's state of mind when exposed to this disease. The irony is that the recipient of the letter, the other main character in the film (Louis Jordan), exhibits symptoms where his memory is concerned, typical of the condition!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 2 3 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

Letter From An Unknown Woman [DVD]
Letter From An Unknown Woman [DVD] by Max Ophüls (DVD - 2006)
£16.37
In stock
Add to basket Add to wishlist
Only search this product's reviews