If your boss catches you napping under your desk tomorrow, here's a good excuse: Just say you were up late watching Turner Classic Movies' all-night tribute to one of the movies' greatest directors, Max Ophuls. Not only that, the six-film series gives you a chance to compare his seldom-shown late ’40s Hollywood films with two of his European masterpieces from the 1950s.
First up is 1949's The Reckless Moment (7 p.m.), a blackmail suspenser with Joan Bennett and James Mason that was adapted into the Tilda Swinton drama The Deep End. It's followed by 1949's Caught (8:30 p.m.), with Robert Ryan a neurotic marvel as an unhinged tycoon modeled on Howard Hughes, and 1948's Letter from an Unknown Woman (10:15 p.m.), a peerless romantic melodrama with Joan Fontaine pining for narcissist Louis Jourdan. The last of Ophuls' American films showing tonight is actually his first, the 1947 Douglas Fairbanks Jr. swashbuckler The Exile (midnight).
From there, it's Ophuls' ironic 1950 romantic roundelay La Ronde (1:45 a.m.), with its oft-copied structure following a daisy chain of lovers; and one of the most gorgeous films ever made, 1953's The Earrings of Madame de ... (3:30 a.m.). The clip above contains the justly famous scene where forbidden lovers Danielle Darrieux and Vittorio De Sica literally swirl from casual flirtation into consuming grand passion in a montage of ballroom encounters — a sequence in which every exquisitely choreographed sweep of the camera manages to catch some privileged moment on the wing (like the glimpse of the entwined lovers in a mirror, while the departing musician lights his cigarette from the dimming lights). Evidently this guy liked it too.