After piquing my interest last year when it screened at the TCM Classic Film Festival, I decided to give When You Read This Letter (Quand tu liras cette lettre in French) a try during its 4K restoration tour of the country.
If I were to describe the genre, I would safely put in the realm of a drama or melodrama, although I have seen it also described as a noir.
To that, I say …
Seriously though, to the modern viewer all of the tropes that they would associate with some of today’s popular melodramas are here – death, love, sex and all the stuff in between. That brings us to the story.
To even begin to describe the plot details would be a great disservice. This story is best experienced if you let it unfold before your eyes. In fact, I was about to provide a synopsis, but thought the better. Rest assured – once the plot jumps off, it really jumps off, and in a manner that is reasonably easy to follow. It is as if the filmmakers sat in a room and listed out all the emotionally-charged twists and turns they could possibly imagine. Think of it as throwing “storytelling spaghetti” at a proverbial wall, hoping that something would stick. Thankfully, the performers are able to keep up and keep the audience interested enough.
On the technical side, thanks to the good folks at Rialto Pictures, the film was a treat to see in a solid 4K restoration. Although we had some focusing issues in the opening minutes of our screening, the issue was soon resolved and we were transported to 1950’s Southern France.
Would I recommend this film? Well – it really depends. For a general audience, When You Read This Letter might be a bit of a deep cut into the world of cinema. But for those cinephiles eager to augment their Franco-cinema education, I say go for it!