Caught, a Film by Max Ophüls, Tonight at BAM

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12/12/2007 10:00 AM |

Caught, which plays today at BAM as part of their Max Ophüls retro, was based on a novel called called Wild Calendar, by one Libbie Block, though the finished movie bears scant resemblance to its source. Made in 1947, it was the third Hollywood film directed by Ophüls, after a five years of inactivity following his arrival in the states; somewhere in there, though, he was hired, humiliated, and fired by Howard Hughes. With Caught, he gets back at him, turning the film’s central male character into a thinly disguised version of Hughes — a mysterious millionaire who also happens to be paranoid, possibly psychotic, and who has a nasty habit of collecting kept women. According to Chuck Taylor, “Ophüls and screenwriter Arthur Laurents relied… on stories they had heard from some of Hughes’ discarded women” for the character.

And aside from being the end result of an infamous Hollywood backstory, the character “Smith Ohlrig” is also grist for a terrific Robert Ryan performance: Ryan found seemingly endless shades of insecurity, fear, and melancholy within even the most menacing characters, and as the Hughes stand-in he’s seething, indeterminately sexualized, and control-freaky. He’s a perfect Hughes — virile and dashing at first, until you realize just how weird and obsessive he is.

The movie’s pretty damn great, too: Barbara Bel Geddes plays a shopgirl who enters into what she thinks is a fairy-tale marriage with Ohlring; the movie is a tabloid expose, a cautionary tale to a nation beginning to rediscover the joys of wealth and fame, and a continental spin on noir style. This being an Ophüls movie, his focus and sympathy is squarely on the woman negotiating a malignant society, but spare a minute to note how supporting player Ryan ends up looming over the whole thing.

Oh, also: elsewhere in movies, it’s the last day to catch Skolimowski’s Deep End at Anthology. Have *any of our readers* gone to see it yet? Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments.

One Comment

  • MArk: saw it first night, I wonder what you thought of it. I think the ending of this movie is too much of a shocker, considering the comedy that came before. You just don’t see it coming. It really makes you hate this kid, his stupidity. Although I found his stupidity throughout somewhat grating. Perhaps that was the directors intent. But for me it was only 3rd or 4th best film of the retrospective.

    Just on a sidenote, this movie was co-written with Jerzy Gruza who went on to write and direct the series “Czterdziestolatek” (40 Year Old Guy) which is probably one of the most popular series in history of Polish TV. Those parts like the “soccer” lady that is pure Gruza type skit comedy, or the fondling of the breasts in the movie theater. If you want to check out his other work here’s something he directed(actually anything with Gruza, Himilsbach or Maklakiewicz is worth checking out). “Party for 10 people + 3″ with English subtitles, follow the links: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AzPlyP85lAE

    I wonder if it works in translation though.