A Thoughtful Array Of Bonus Features Elevates The Reckless Moment

by Rachel Bellwoar

Unhappy with her daughter, Bea’s (Geraldine Brooks), choice in boyfriends, Lucia Harper (Joan Bennett) does what any horrified mother would do: she drives out to the hotel where he’s staying and tells him to stay away from her. Given that Ted Darby (Shepperd Strudwick) is the type of man Lucia pegs him for, Romeo doesn’t protest. He just asks for money and Lucia, unwilling to give him any, walks away. You can’t get rid of a man like Darby that easily, though, and when he shows up at their boat house and Bea realizes he’s a cad, she has to hit him with a flashlight to get away.

Luckily, Bea doesn’t kill him. The tumble he takes off their boat house does, and after Lucia finds him the next morning, and decides not to call the police, she barely has time to get rid of the body before another blackmailer shows up. This one, played by James Mason, has the letters Bea wrote to Darby and is willing to hand them over for $5,000. With her husband away and her family keeping tabs on her every move, will Lucia be able to raise the funds and save her daughter’s name from ruination?

Before watching Max OphülsThe Reckless Moment, I didn’t realize it was based on the same source material as 2001’s The Deep End, starring Tilda Swinton, Goran Višnjić, and Jonathan Tucker. I’m glad I didn’t, because other than a fresh desire to compare it to Reckless, it’s not a film I would’ve wanted to revisit, despite the cast.

It’s not that The Reckless Moment avoids the problems I had with The Deep End (namely the ending and the not calling the police from the beginning) but that these decisions make a lot more sense in a film from the 40’s. Lucia’s fears about her daughter getting caught up in a scandal and the police blaming her for Darby’s death feel more justified here than they did in The Deep End.

There’s also the film’s depiction of motherhood as a prison that rings a lot more true in The Reckless Moment, for several reasons. Lucia can’t move in her house without running into somebody. She’s questioned if she does anything different or out of the ordinary. The first line in the movie is her grating, sitcom-voiced son, David (David Blair) yelling, ““Mother! Mother! Where are you going?” as she drives away.

Ophüls’ preference for long takes adds to the claustrophobia of the home (director, Todd Haynes, talks about this in an excellent featurette titled, “Maternal Overdrive”), as every turn and corner looks to box Lucia in, and then there’s what women were going through historically, after WWII, expected to return to their domestic roles, after joining the workforce (Samm Deighan’s booklet essay cracks this wide open and is an extremely gratifying read).

Containing some of the best bonus features I’ve ever seen on a Blu-Ray release, Indicator’s edition of The Reckless Moment also contains a three-part series from a Focus on James Mason event that was held at Birkbeck University and an essential breakdown of the film’s production by author, Lutz Bacher (whose book, Max Ophüls in the Hollywood Studios, sounds like a definitive read for anyone interested in Ophüls’ American movies).

The Reckless Moment is available on all-region Blu-Ray starting April 22nd from Indicator. If you enjoy your noirs melodramatic, this one is stacked to the nines.

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