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Directed by Max Ophüls

France 1940 95 mins.

Banned during the German occupation of France in WWII and directly leading to Ophüls’ (La Ronde, The Earrings of Madame De…) exile, this opulent yet intimate film looks inside the vicissitudes of European court life in the 30 years leading up to the dual assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand (John Cabot Lodge) and his lover Czech Countess Sophie Chotek (Edwige Feuillère), an event that directly precipitated the beginning of WWI. Skillfully marrying form and content, Ophüls’ fluid camera moves—anticipating his famed costume dramas to come—describe, in great detail, the miniscule events in the lives of the powerful that can shake both nations and the world. “An exemplary political film, the counterpart to Jean Renoir’s The Rules of the Game (1939) as a work of vast historical vision in a quasi-operatic form.”—Richard Brody, The New Yorker. In French with English subtitles.

New 35mm print courtesy of The Film Desk.