The Earrings of Madame De... (Madame de...) (1954)
The Earrings of Madame De... (Madame de...) (1954)
The Earrings of Madame De... (Madame de...) Photos
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Critic Reviews for The Earrings of Madame De... (Madame de...)
Slighter and more emotionally distant than Ophüls's masterpiece 'Letter from an Unknown Woman', but filled with a similar mood of romantic despair and desperation.
On one hand, Madame De . . . is all surface and style; on the other, it conveys real loss.
Three good reasons you should see The Earrings of Madame de ... are the presence and performances of Danielle Darrieux, Charles Boyer and Vittorio De Sica. This celestial triangle has never been surpassed in grace, charm and, yes, wit and humor.
Like its turn-of-the-century décor and costuming, it is elegant and filled with decorative but basically unnecessary little items, which give it gentility and a nostalgic mood, but nothing much more substantial.
Audience Reviews for The Earrings of Madame De... (Madame de...)
As the film opens, Madame Louise is looking through her things for something to sell, in order to have some extra spending money. In lieu of her furs or her diamond cross pendant, she takes out a pair of earrings. She sells them, then pretends to "lose" them at the opera one night. When the missing earrings are reported in the paper as stolen, the jeweler she pawned them off on comes to return them to her husband, the General (Charles Boyer). The general buys them back and gives them to his mistress, who's about to leave the country on an extended trip to Constantinople. When the mistress runs upon hard times, she hocks the earrings and it's then that the visiting ambassador, Baron Fabrizio Donati buys them. Donati meets Louise at customs and falls in love with her at first sight. As the two pursue a friendship that turns into romance, he gives her the earrings, not knowing they were originally hers. That Louise could sell the earrings her husband gave her as a wedding present speaks of how she regarded her marriage to the General. It's not as if the general were a bad man or that they weren't quite suitable companions. "I don't like the person I've become in your eyes" says the general to Louise, who suddenly feels the painful sting of jealousy as he watches his wife fall in love with another man. The general, deep down, is quite a human character, perhaps even more so than the overly romantic Baron who comes to steal away his wife. The idea that people create these narrow pathes through life that they limit themselves to is not strictly the domain of the upper class of the past. Perhaps it's a lesson to be found in watching the, uhs... march to their own respective dooms in such orderly fashion.
Max Ophuls' The 'Earrings of Madame de...' is a visually stunning, sparkling melodrama for adults. There is so much subtext in the script (most of what the characters say is not what they mean) that it requires an film goer with a fully engaged mind to appreciate the film. I think it is the subtlety and restraint that have kept this film off most 'best films of all time' lists, which tend to favor bigger emotions and more sweeping visual epics. The unlikely plot sounds pretty contrived, and it is. The premise is that the fate of a peripatetic, inanimate object (earrings in this case) owned by the spoiled trophy wife is the catalyst for life changing epiphanies. I recently saw a very different classic, Winchester 73 with James Stewart where the object was a rifle. The plot is contrived, but the characters aren't, they are fully recognizable humans. The plot is just the Macguffin to get there. As the earrings pass from hand to hand, new layers of character and information are revealed about the nature of the relationships of the members of this love triangle, Charles Boyer (the cuckolded French General), Danielle Darrieux (the spoiled trophy wife), and her lover, to whom she doesn't get to actually make love, Vittorio De Sica (the Italian diplomat and Darrieux' lover). The performances are flawless, and despite the low key nature of the style, somewhere at the 45 minute mark we care about these people and are glued to find out how it all turns out. Despite the light tone, the film is ultimately a tragedy. I can't let my little review end without mentioning the sumptuous photography and the best use of moving dolly shots that I have ever seen in a film. The camera follows character as they move from room to room and from object to object. It's not as attention grabbing as the big restaurant single shot scene in Scorsese's "Good Fellas", but the shots are so well executed, we barely notice them except to be fully involved and empathized with the characters. If you like Renoir's 'Rules of the Game' or Bergman's 'Smiles of a Summer Night' you must see this film. Or if you're just starting to get into black and white mid-twentieth century European films about adultery among the gentry, this film is a good place to start.
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