pseudopodium
. . . The Reckless Moment

. . .

The 100 Super Movies au maximum: The Reckless Moment Meeting the son-in-law

"Cyberspace is no place for mommies." -- Karen Joy Fowler
Maybe not, but The Reckless Moment proves that there's sure a place for 'em in film noir. In fact, as with a lot of formulas favored by self-pitying spoiled sons, film noir makes more sense with a mommy in the lead.

Sit-coms and comic strips love the American family because something big always seems to be happening but everything is back to normal by the end of the episode. The Reckless Moment repositions that once-a-day cycle from the mother's point of view: the family member's job is to present every passing fancy as an emergency to the mother, but the mother's job is to maintain stability at any cost. Where Douglas Sirk's domestic tragedies emphasize suffocation (the enveloping family keeps you warm at the cost of snuffing out flames), Ophuls pecks to death.

The eventual effect of this affection-hungry din is to level all stimuli out. Thus Ophuls's thoroughgoing use of a narrative technique I've never seen used anywhere else in film, fiction, or theater: the deliberate tossing away of obvious opportunities for suspense and emotional climaxes. Drama is replaced by fretfulness:

And so on, until it's completely understandable that someone who needs $5000 overnight would start trying to figure out how to trim the electric bill, and that someone might panic as much over the distinction between "getting" a loan and "making" a loan as about murder, blackmail, and truly doomed love.

(Those intrigued by Ophuls's gynocentric approach to film noir should also seek out Caught, which must be the only Hollywood movie in which a miscarriage supplies the happy ending. And then probably move on to Jeanne Dielman 23 Quai Du Commerce 1080 Bruxelles....)

 

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