Owen’s review published on Letterboxd:
People always talk about their favourite directors, I always mention Hawks or Lubitsch or Sturges, when actually they are talking about what sort of films they like; who was responsible for putting on the screen the best lines and the coolest characters and the most entertaining diversions. I think you can, if you are vaguely cineliterate, look at that list of Hawks, Lubitsch and Sturges and come up with a wider picture of what I want from a movie and entertainment in general that is accurate even if it isn't all encompassing.
Which is useful, because if people were actually talking about who has the best skill set with the tools of direction and were talking about Western movie making everyone would just say Ophuls and we wouldn't be able to use our directorial choices as a shorthand for anything else and everyone would just watch gorgeously composed images of tragic women from an impossible viewpoint three feet outside a bedroom window in Vienna all day.
And I don't really want to do that.
But I do want to acknowledge just how far ahead of everybody else at this directing game he was.
I watched this in chunks, it's episodic anyway and the first chunk was over an hour so it didn't really spoil anything. My wife was only there for the final 20 minutes or so, from the Bavarian riots to the end. I must have bored her silly taking about about 5 shots in that time and they weren't even my favourite moments of the movie, although that final shot is both incredible and works perfectly thematically.
As does the whole movie, these are not amazing shots for the sake of it, they bring home the ideas of voyeurism and complicity and hunger for spectacle that the story sells us. A story that rips apart the idea of racy costume drama while being the most sumptous thing you ever saw.
It is close to perfect and makes you mourn the fact he didn't do more in colour, or just more generally.