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Earrings of Madame de...
Earrings of Madame de
Actors: Charles Boyer, Danielle Darrieux, Paul Azäis, Madeleine Barbulee, Jean Debucourt
Director: Max Ophuls
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
UR     2008     1hr 40min

French master Max Ophuls's most cherished work, The Earrings of Madame de . . . is an emotionally profound, cinematographically adventurous tale of false opulence and tragic romance. When the aristocratic woman known only ...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Charles Boyer, Danielle Darrieux, Paul Azäis, Madeleine Barbulee, Jean Debucourt
Director: Max Ophuls
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Love & Romance
Studio: Criterion Collection
Format: DVD - Black and White,Full Screen - Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 09/16/2008
Original Release Date: 01/01/1953
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/1953
Release Year: 2008
Run Time: 1hr 40min
Screens: Black and White,Full Screen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 17
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Languages: French
Subtitles: English

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Movie Reviews

A Rare Love Story that Sparkles.
G. Merritt | Boulder, CO | 06/22/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Director Max Ophüls is known for his brilliant tracking shots and elaborate camera movements (which influenced Stanley Kubrick). He is also well known for the dazzling beauty of his 1953 black-and white film, The Earrings of Madame de . . ., which is based on a novel by Louise Leveque de Vilmorin. Set in Vienna in the late 19th century, the film tells the story of an elegant aristocratic woman, Countess Louisa (Danielle Darrieux) who, unbeknownst to her husband, General Andre (Charles Boyer), sells her earrings to cover her personal debts. The General gave her the diamond earrings as a wedding gift. Remy the jeweler then sells them back to the General who, in turn, gives them to his mistress, Lola (Lia Di Leo). She gambles them away in Constantinople. The Countess then falls in love with an Italian, Baron Donati (Vittorio De Sica), who gives her the same earrings as a sign of his love. She must then deceive the General about how she got the earrings back. This film is like a rare, evanescent gem. From a technical standpoint it is brilliantly cut and the cinematography sparkles, which is reason enough to experience this of a film. Roger Ebert calls this film "one of the great pleasures of the cinema."

The new Criterion edition features a newly restored high-definition digital transfer; audio commentary featuring film scholars Susan White and Gaylyn Studlar; interviews with Ophuls collaborators Alain Jessua, Mar Frédérix, and Annette Wademant; a visual analysis of The Earrings of Madame de . . . by film scholar Tag Gallagher; an interview with novelist Louise de Vilmorin on Ophuls's adaptation of her story; new and improved English subtitle translation; and a new essay by Molly Haskell, Louise de Vilmorin's novella Madame de, upon which the film is based, and a reprinted essay by costume designer and longtime Ophuls collaborator Georges Annenkov.

G. Merritt
One of Max Ophuls most elegant and saddest films, with super
C. O. DeRiemer | San Antonio, Texas, USA | 06/23/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"What a sad, elegant film this is. The Earrings of Madame de... takes us into the fin de siecle Parisian world of the mannered rich, where the act of amorous intimacy is as much an expected social obligation as it is a personal pleasure, where a serious discussion about serious things is considered as indiscrete as loving one's spouse.

"Madame de... is a most elegant lady," we are told, "distinguished, received everywhere. She seemed destined to a delightful, untroubled existence. Doubtless nothing would have happened but for the jewels." She (Danielle Darrieux) is married to the rich and assured General Andre de... (Charles Boyer). When she realizes she has debts she cannot pay and does not want her husband to learn of, she sells a pair of diamond earrings her husband gave her the day after they were married. She tells her husband a little lie, that the earrings were stolen. The jeweler, not knowing of the little lie, soon goes to the general, assuming he will want to buy them back. He does, but rather than embarrass his wife, he gives them to a mistress he is saying farewell to as she departs for Constantinople. And there, she sells the jewels to cover her gambling debts. The jewels soon appear in the window of an elegant Constantinople jewelry store where Baron Fabrizio Donati (Vittorio De Sica), an Italian diplomat soon on his way to Paris, buys them. And since fate and convenience work in mysterious ways, Donati meets Madame de in Paris and they fall into what passes for love by their class. Donati gives the earrings to Madame de as a sign of his love, not knowing they were originally given to her by her husband. And Madame de must now tell a few more little lies. When her husband, the General, sees them, she must tell even more. From a story of amusing deceptions and brilliant social manners, the movie becomes a much darker and sadder story. Donati may be in love, but he understands the limits of their social class. Madame de may be in love, but for the first time in her life she moves beyond those limits. And the General? He may be worldly to a fault, he may even love his wife, but even he cannot accept becoming an object of smiles behind fans without taking some sort of action.

Ophuls immediately captures us with the elegance of both his camera and the dialogue, a mix of oblivious self-centeredness and matter-of-fact moral amusement. This was a time, for those who could afford it, before trophy mistresses learned to first demand gold wedding rings, before trophy wives required community property laws, prenuptial agreements and slick lawyers in custom-bought silk suits. Madame de lives in this world and thrives. Her downfall may be the result of the diamond earrings her husband gave her, but the real cause certainly is that she actually fell in love. Not just in love, either, but in love with the memory of love.

What a pleasure it is to see subtle and experienced actors as Charles Boyer, Danielle Darrieux and Vittorio De Sica take their roles and bring them to life in such a way that we are forced to continually readjust our feelings toward their characters. When Boyer as the General comments to his wife that "a liar should have more sangfroid," he manages without effort to show amusement, indulgence, perhaps love, but also a little distaste, all in one line reading. All three expertly show us a class of society it's more satisfying to be amused by than to take seriously, yet all three succeed in making us take their characters not only seriously, but each one with a good deal of sympathy.

Please note that the Criterion release is not scheduled until September 2008, nearly three months from now. My comments on the movie here are based on watching the Region 2 release which I have. I think so much of this film I plan to buy the Criterion release as soon as it's issued. I'll add a paragraph to these comments concerning the Criterion extras and transfer quality after I watch it."
Psychologically complex. Emotionally profound. Beautifully c
JfromJersey | Manalapan, NJ | 01/23/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Anyone could see that Louise was an attractive but frivolous woman. Ensnared on her own volition in a loveless marriage to an aristocrat general, who showers her with fine furs and jewelry, and abides her petty flirtations whilst always maintaining the decorum proper for a military nobleman in high society, Louise too, adheres to the dictates and protocol demanded of a nobleman's wife in the elaborate, but meaningless and empty milieu in which she resides. Louise is a comely and innocuous creature, prone to fainting spells, whose marriage to the philandering Count is unremarkable and unmemorable. But into this very shallow, unremarkable existence, Louise will find passion, and it will complicate her life, and eventually destroy it.

MADAME de...opens with Max Ophuls' fluid camera taking Louise's viewpoint as it scans her jewelry cases, and wardrobe, searching for something of considerable value to sell. The woman has rung up a large debt, and she loathes to ask her husband for the money. Reluctantly, she decides on a pair of heart shaped diamond earrings, a wedding gift from her husband that she is not particularly fond of. The sale of those earrings sets in motion a chain of events that will lead Louise down a fateful road, where desire, misunderstanding, and deception, will culminate in tragedy. She finds love but at a drastic cost. In an Ophuls film, passionate love is a thing of beauty, the antidote to a shallow existence, the inspiration for art, and for life itself. It is also a kind of sickness that often clouds one's better judgement, causes one to neglect responsibilities and make rash, sometimes fatal decisions.

MADAME de..., Ophuls finest film, and one of the greatest ever made, is a movie that gets better with repeated viewings. It is so perfectly crafted, and there are many subtleties that can be overlooked on an initial viewing. For example, it took a second viewing for me to realize that the earrings, although carried earlier through various peregrinations by Louise, the Count, his mistress, and Donati, were not fully shown in closeup until Louise's lover, Baron Donati, gave them to her as a token of his love. Once that happens, they take on a special significance, not only for Louise, who looks on them as a surrogate for her lover, but for her husband, who now associates them with his wife's infidelity and the man who is responsible for it. The Count becomes a complicated figure who remarks at one point to Louise that their marriage is in reality, superficially superficial. He may still have feelings for her, or perhaps a mixture of love and guilt, but his wounded pride will lead to actions that will ultimately destroy any hope of reconciliation. The Count is the military man and the Baron the diplomat, but it's the Count who tries diplomacy to save the marriage and his self respect until it becomes a hopeless endeavor, while the Baron, upon learning of Louise's duplicity with the earrings, resorts to a militant obstinacy in terminating the affair. Those earrings that Louise at first wanted so desperately to sell that she prayed in church for it, eventually become something she is so desperate to possess that she sells all her furs and jewels to buy back. They represent her lover and the memory of love that she now owns, that her husband cannot touch. In the final tracking sequence of the movie, the camera will return to the same cathedral in which she at first prayed for the sale, and finally, most desperately, for the life of the Baron, and slowly pan from the statue of the saint down to those fateful earrings, given up by Louise to expiate the imagined sin of the affair, and now church property. Poignant symmetry does abound in MADAME de...

To Max Ophuls, movement is life, and elegant tracking shots are of course, a hallmark of his movies. I think they are most effectively done in this film. The aren't as pronounced or exaggerated in MADAME de..There is a musical quality to them, like the waltz theme hummed by Louise in the beginning and repeated throughout the film. A classic example of Ophuls' genius with the moving camera can be found in the legendary ballroom waltz sequence that follows Louise and the Baron. At points in the dance sequence the swirling pair dissolve and reappear in different settings, time frames, from different perspectives, and with nuances in speech and expression, that ingeniously show the deepening of their relationship. Ophuls also delights in repeatedly using things like staircases, windows, doors, candles, and mirrors to facilitate the isolation or coupling of the characters and highlight themes as the plot develops.

MADAME de... is a movie to be enjoyed and marveled at, over and over..and the cast is superb. My God, has there ever been better ensemble acting in a film than what we see here from Danielle Darrieux, Charles Boyer, and Vittorio De Sica? Ophuls does not let his actors go overboard in their performances. No screaming or shouting. The method would be anathema in an Ophuls movie. Everything is under control, but the emotions seethe underneath, and are given away by an arched eyebrow, a turn of phrase, or a longing glance. Like a Mozart composition, everything is outwardly pleasing, but inwardly aching, but unlike Mozart, with Ophuls there are seldom happy endings. There are few exclamation points but many question marks in Ophuls films and MADAME de... is no exception. Was the affair or even the marriage ever consummated? Were the 2 fatalities a fait accompli, or merely a likely possibility? Assumptions and intimations are made, not statements of fact. This is not reality, but cinema, and Ophuls constantly reminds us of it. As a subtext to the major ideas presented in MADAME de...Ophuls deftly touches upon conflicting relationships existing in turn of the century France..between the sexes, between the classes, and even between the military and diplomatic corps. Also to note in this film are the exquisite sets and costume designs. MADAME a work of cinematic art that will stand the test of time.

This Criterion package includes a booklet which contains an essay by noted critic Molly Haskell, as well as the novella (quite different from the movie), written by Louise de Vilmorin, from which the film was adapted. The DVD specials include an amusing interview with an indignant Mme. de Vilmorin (who ridicules the changes made and calls the film boring), interviews with various Ophuls collaboraters, and an introduction by Paul Thomas Anderson which I didn't find very illuminating. IMO Todd Haynes, who did the intro for Criterion's release of Le Plaisir, would have done better.

The magisterial Max Ophuls, and one of his greatest films...
Grigory's Girl | NYC | 06/26/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Let me start off like this....bear with me...

I detest Hollywood chick flicks. They are simplistic, childish, silly, and completely unrealistic in their depiction of so-called romance. The term "romantic comedy" makes me nauseaous. Many friends and family members have come under the erroneous impression that I am not a romantic. Far from it. I prefer my romance of the old school, a deep, unshakeable romance, those feelings that if you're open to them, you cannot deny them at all. A love that comes with maturity, with passion and intelligence, one that is so deep, so knowing, so consuming, so happy yet sad at the same time. Many try and find this love in a superficial, uncaring world, and many are destroyed by it, others find it and die for it, yet they are the lucky ones.

I see this in the films of Max Ophuls.

The Earrings of Madame de... is one of Ophuls's greatest works. It's a magnificent film of deep style and even deeper substance, something that is rarely achieved by any filmmaker. Ophuls's mise en scene, with his incredibly camera work (especially for its time, before the invention of steadicams), beautiful performances, wonderful dialogue, and deep, deep wisdom about how men and women try and destroy each other, yet, must have one another as well. This film has a small plot thread about a set of earrings that set off a chain of events that spiral out of control and consume the protagonists, and that leads the film to its stunning, unforgettable conclusion.

There's so much to Ophuls's films that it's almost impossible to do them justice in writing about them. Criterion has released this one and La Ronde, another magnificent work, so if you are a real romantic (not a Hollywood one), you must witness these films. They may change your life."