Leaving Germany after the ascendancy of the Nazi party, Max Ophuls made films in France and Italy before emigrating to Hollywood in the late 1940s. Letter from an Unknown Woman is perhaps the best known of the four films he made there before returning to Europe. It’s an immensely moving tale of a young woman’s (Joan Fontaine) periodic encounters with concert pianist Stefan Brand (Louis Jourdan), including a love affair that some years later Brand will wretchedly not even remember.
Adapted from a novella by Stefan Zweig, the project gave Ophuls the opportunity to recreate turn-of-the-century Vienna, an old world he had left behind. The sentimental material is elevated by the director’s refined visual style, typified in the elaborate moving camera shots for which he is famous.