Alain Resnais’ incomparable masterpiece is bound to baffle spectators who insist on regarding him as an intellectual rather than an emotional director, simply because he shares the conviction of Carl Dreyer and Robert Bresson that form is the surest route to feelings. In his 11th feature, he adapts a 1929 boulevard melodrama by a forgotten playwright named Henry Bernstein, and holds so close to this “dated” and seemingly unremarkable play that theatrical space and decor—including the absence of a fourth wall—are rigorously respected. Using the same talented quartet that appeared in his previous two films—Andre Dussollier (Le beau mariage) as a gifted concert violinist; Pierre Arditi as his suburban friend, Sabine Azema as the latter’s wife, who falls in love with the violinist; and Fanny Ardant (in a smaller role) as her cousin—Resnais invests the original meaning of “melodrama” (drama with music) with exceptional beauty and power, cutting and moving his camera with impeccable dramatic logic to give their performances maximum voltage. His concentrated treatment of the 20s, while never less than modern, retrieves that era in all its mysterious density.