T. int.: Without Tomorrow. Scen.: Hans Wilhelm, Curt Alexander, Max Ophuls. Dial.: André-Paul Antoine. F.: Paul Portier, Eugen Schüfftan. M.: Jean Sacha, Bernard Séjourné. Scgf.: Eugène Lourié, Max Douy. Mus.: Allan Gray. Int.: Edwige Feuillère (Evelyne), Georges Rigaud (Georges), Daniel Lecourtois (Armand), Georges Lannes (Paul Mazuraud), Michel François (Pierre), Paul Azaïs, (Henri), Gabriello (Mario), Pauline Carton (la domestica), Mady Berry, (la portinaia), Jacques Erwin (Hermann), Jane Marken (Madame Béchu). Prod.: Gregor Rabinotich per Ciné-Alliance. Pri. pro.: 22 marzo 1940. 35mm. D.: 82′. Bn.
The end of the 1930s and of Max Ophuls’ first period: why not De Mayerling à Sarajevo (where the burning subject is so close, and which moreover was shot partly before and partly after the war broke out) or even Werther (a film almost obsessed with the French-German relationship, which was shot near the border during one of the pre-war false alarms)? Sans lendemain is the choice because of its fragility and because, if we are talking seriously about history, we should bring in the truth of the finest melodramas – a film equal to the German Liebelei and the Italian La signora di tutti. Sans lendemain might be remembered as the masterpiece in Ophuls’ canon of the 1930s. The film is situated in the world of prostitutes (in a way that brings it closer to Mizoguchi than perhaps any other Ophuls film) and concentrates on one Evelyne Morin (Edwige Feuillère) brought into close-up in a story which Ophuls himself characterizes best: “Sans lendemain was born of my impressions of Paris, the sensations and the episodes lived during the course of many nights, in places and among people whose very mention shocks the upright citizen. I had always been attracted to the universe of pimps and girls, this universe in which rested so many unknown soldiers of love, I often dreamed of making a film truly devoted to this subject. A film whose script would come from a modern Maupassant”.
She comes across her great love from ten years earlier; she does not want to tell him why she left then, and she does not reveal that now she is controlled by a pimp. It’s a complicated situation, with an aura of classic literature, and it’s about so much more as well: life lies in the depths of the unfulfilled wish to live and love honestly. With divine objectivity Ophuls defines the cages of memory and age-old enslavement: “are you sure that you can’t tell him the truth?”. “Never. I have to live my lie until the end”.
As always with Ophuls, everything is experienced palpably – not only through the story but most graphically in the mise-en-scène, this time equally brilliantly by the impressive use of flashbacks. Situations are meditated with repetitions from other angles and other points of view, producing a musical creation of solitudes and an ironic semblance of objectivity – something that would happen to more film-historical acclaim two years later in Citizen Kane. That would make Ophuls an innovator of the forms of modern film… but it is not essential. Suffice it to say only that Sans lendemain is a film of tragic intensity, “an admirable film, imbued with poetry and mystery” (as one contemporary reviewer aptly wrote).
Peter von Bagh