Europa Cinema > 20:15


Max Ophuls


Thursday 30/06/2022


Original version with subtitles


Film Notes

Dreams that money can buy? A course in etiquette and deportment, a job as a model in a department store, the good fortune to meet a millionaire, and naturally a mink coat. Dreams that money can buy? A girl to marry just to spite your therapist, and then to mistreat like a damaged toy, a boring trophy. Pauline Kael wrote that the handsome but neurotic character played by Robert Ryan was an allusion to Howard Hughes, towards whom the expat Ophüls felt justifiably bitter, given that Hughes kept him hanging around for four years before letting him shoot a film, all the while referring to him as “that oaf ”; indeed, the character, although occupying much of the running time, is somewhat slight and base. Caught is a film with a troubled history. It was started by John Berry, whose formative experiences were in the company of Welles (he would go on to make the documentary The Hollywood Ten and immediately found himself blacklisted), and so there are moments in which this citizen Ryan seems to be possessed of a surly greatness, slumped in his armchair, as completely indifferent to the vertiginous depth of field around as to everything else. Max Ophüls entered the project at a later stage, and this was already a humiliation for a director who had made Letter from an Unknown Woman the previous year. Maybe the “romantic pulp fiction” (“Variety”) that he found himself lumbered with did not interest him; maybe he was already packing to return to France, where he would shoot some milestones in the history of film; and yet he managed to turn Caught into a magnetic noir with a very personal visual style. Certainly Barbara Bel Geddes (who would later play that ironic but excruciating small role in Vertigo, before becoming forever the kindly matriarch of Dallas) is neither Lola nor Madame De…, but Ophüls lends her plain, bread-and-butter character all the shades of female desolation; if, as Emanuela Martini puts it, Hollywood “knew how to make use of the subtleties in James Mason’s acting, albeit while curtailing his star potential”, then that process can be said to have begun here, with this good doctor to whom the British actor gives as much depth and sensuality as he can in the time he is given. Ophüls’ camera is already the one that enchanted Truffaut, a camera “that passes through a scene, dashes up the stairs, along the front of buildings, down the platform of a station, through the bushes”; here it fluidly glides and darts through the two rooms of a modest East Side apartment, among sinks, ironing boards, girls’ wet hair and dressing gowns, making the opening sequence a stylistic miracle. As for the final smile, that is pure perversion.

Paola Cristalli

Cast and Credits

Sog.: dal romanzo Wild Calendar (1946) di Libbie Block. : Arthur Laurents. F.: Lee Garmes. M.: Robert Parrish. Scgf.: F. Paul Sylos. Mus.: Frederick Hollander. Int.: James Mason (Larry Quinada), Barbara Bel Geddes (Leonora Eames), Robert Ryan (Smith Ohlrig), Frank Ferguson (dottor Hoffman), Curt Bois (Franzi Kartos), Ruth Brady (Maxine), Natalie Schafer (Dorothy Dole), Art Smith (psichiatra), Sonia Darrin (signorina Chambers), Bernadene Hayes (signora Rudecki). Prod.: David L. Loew, Wolfgang Reinhardt per Enterprise Productions. DCP. D.: 88’. Bn.