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This happened 5 months ago, 2 weeks after Christmas.

On a break from reading and dreaming out the window on a train ride from Cleveland to New York, a viewing of Max Ophuls’ THE RECKLESS MOMENT. Having seen the film years before on that old-goat of 35mm, it felt OK to indulge in my sudden desire to see the movie despite having to watch it on a laptop. And despite the viewing circumstances, or perhaps precisely because of them, because of my actually being able to hold the movie and the changing and expanding exterior imagery outside my window, Ophuls’ last American film opened up to me in a way it hadn’t before and in turn revealed itself to be an object hermetically sealed. Not just a story, but a “histoire.”

And in that histoire, the image of Joan Bennett’s Lucia Harper trudging up and down the staircases of her home, her boathouse, and eventually a loan office became etched in my memory—the futility of stairs. Once you go up, you must go down, and once you go down you almost always have to go up again. It’s a continuous motion that seemingly gets you nowhere, or, in the case of Lucia Harper, to another room.

But, the would-be monotony of those images is broken up by Ophuls’s famous, moving camerawork. The changing angles and pacing of his camera not illustrating behavior or proving insight into the life of Lucia, but instead presenting us with what Lucia will never be able to realize on her own—that routine and behavior need variance for life to have meaning. Otherwise that staircase becomes an archive, not unlike a President’s farewell address.

youtu.be/VIDv_qYh_K

Another viewing a little over a week ago: a screening of Monte Hellman’s THE SHOOTING (another pristine primeval 35mm experience). 80 minutes of barely-there characters trudging through an expansive and never-ending desert. Bodies in constant forward motion moving towards an invisible and ultimately unattainable location—Hellman’s minimalist desert maze could easily be described as THE RECKLESS MOMENT turned inside out.

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