Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Reckless Moment (Ophüls. 1949)

"You don't know how a family can surround you at times."

Have you ever watched a movie and, though you enjoyed it, yearned for a more rewarding ending? Max Ophüls' The Reckless Moment is a perfect example of that experience. This is an interesting film noir-esque drama with some significant performances from the cast, but the story seems to have left me unsatisfied and disappointing.

The Reckless Moment tells the story of Lucia Harper. She is a dedicated mother who gets mixed up in a murder mystery through a series of misjudged events. Though she and her family had nothing to do with the dead body in their backyard, Harper has reason to believe that the man was murdered by her daughter. She then goes to great lengths to protect her family.

Joan Bennett is perfect for this role. Her voice and posture remain strictly rigid while the world crumbles around her. It was almost as if she did not hesitate before accepting the role of protective mother. I am not sure if it is intended, but the audience may also get a selfish undertone from Bennett's performance. Though we are not introduced to an All That Heaven Allows type of country club judgmental system, an intelligent viewer can see the multiple reasons why the police were not called.

The shining performance in The Reckless Moment is given by a subtle and debonair James Mason. As Eddie Izzard has said several times, Mason has the voice of God. Listening to his Irish-accented character talk is easy and pleasing to the ear. His calmness in tone, as a gangster out to blackmail Lucia, makes the entire film seem more on edge and alarming.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of The Reckless Moment is its unconventional spin on film noir. In all of the noir that I have seen, I am not sure if I have ever seen a female protagonist. This is not a vixen causing mayhem, but rather a strong female lead who is trying to make up for her follies. When you look at the continued work of Max Ophüls, it makes sense that he would do a film with a strong female lead. The working noir the audience sees is a testament to his talent as a director.

Nothing about this film is extremely memorable. In fact, Mason may be the only GREAT thing about it. When looked at through the definition of its specific genre, The Reckless Moment is an intriguing piece of cinema. I wanted more from the ending, but the beginning and middle were good enough.

The Reckless Moment: B-

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