Ophüls, Max

Ophüls, Max ôˈfüls [key], 1902–57, German-born French film director, b. Saarbrücken as Maximilian Oppenheimer. He started his career in the 1920s as an stage actor and director and began directing films in Berlin during the early 1930s. His early works include Liebelei (1933), made in Austria, and La Signora di Tutti (1933), filmed in Italy. A Jew, he fled Nazi Germany for France (1933), became a French citizen (1938), and after the fall of France settled in California (1941). There Ophüls made four now-classic Hollywood films: The Exile (1947), Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948), Caught (1949), and The Reckless Moment (1949). In 1949 he returned to France, where he directed his final and finest films: La Ronde (1950), Le Plaisir (1951), Madame de… (1953), and Lola Montès (1955). Typically, his films are sophisticated and memory-laden tales of love-obsessed women and the complexities of romance gone awry, portrayed with a fluid gliding camera technique. His son, Marcel Ophüls, 1929–, also a French film director, is known for his searing documentaries. In his most acclaimed film, The Sorrow and the Pity (1970), he explored the World War II collaboration of French citizens and their complicity in the Holocaust. His other films include A Sense of Loss (1972), about Ireland's political conflicts; Hotel Terminus (1987; Academy Award), a look at the life of Nazi Klaus Barbie; and The Troubles We've Seen (1994), focusing on wartime journalism.

See A. L. Williams, Max Ophüls and the Cinema of Desire (1977, repr. 1980, 1992); S. M. White, The Cinema of Max Ophüls (1995); L. Bacher, Max Ophüls in the Hollywood Studios (1996).

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