""Madame Bovary" is one of those rare films that only gets better with age; with each viewing, one notices new elements to appreciate. Vincente Minelli crafted a perfectly literate interpretation of Gustave Flaubert's famed novel. The following is a breakdown of the unifying elements which make "Madame Bovary" so spectacular: DIRECTION: Minelli's keen eye for composing unforgettable scenes is perfectly realized with "Madame Bovary". The ballroom sequence, with its dizzying 360 degree camera angles, is an exasperating metaphor of Emma Bovary's existence and serves as a symbolic foreshadowing of what is to become of her. C'est magnifique! SCREENPLAY:Robert Ardrey's screenplay is deftly paced and packed full of poignant dialogue. CINEMATOGRAPHY: As mentioned earlier, the ballroom sequence is amazing-perhaps the most intricate and inspired of its kind in cinematic history. Robert Planck's moody black & white photography make it all possible. Planck captures Emma at the height of all her fantasies--gazing upward at her reflection, being adored and adulated by throngs of male suitors, in an ornate mirror hanging on the ceiling--brilliant composition!!! ART & SET DIRECTION: All of the Rococco and Baroque grandeur of 1850s France is expertly represented in "Madame Bovary". COSTUME DESIGN: Costume designer, Walter Plunkett, also known for his Academy Award winning work in "Gone With the Wind", created costumes for Jennifer Jones which rival his masterpieces for Vivien Leigh. Plunkett complimented Jones saying, "She has exquisite shoulders like Vivien Leigh", and further complimented her in the film by designing a show-stopping ball gown that emphasized her "exquisite shoulders", to say the least. Yards and yards of white toulle give the impression of Jennifer Jones, with her perfect posture and elegant carriage, gliding and floating across the ballroom like a cloud. MUSICAL SCORE: Most film historians agree that the score for "Madame Bovary" is one of Miklos Rosza's greatest. "The Madame Bovary Waltz" is haunting, energetic, restless-completely representative of Emma Bovary. PERFORMANCES:Jennifer Jones delivers a superb, emotive performance as Emma Bovary-moments of hysterical melodrama are balanced with poignantly relevant "underacting", such as the unforgettable scene when Emma returns home to her furious husband, Charles after having ingested arsenic. Jones perfectly conveys the gravity of what Emma has done to herself and to the people in her life. She kisses her estranged daughter for the last time. She responds to Charles' accusations, simply, "Don't hate me now, Charles." This is what "character acting" is all about!! Jennifer Jones is in tune with Emma Bovary, from her self-destructive, neurotic drive towards melodrama to her sad, painful death. For her stunning achievement, Jones was awarded the French equivalent of the Academy Awards for Best Foreign Film Actress in 1949. Who better to judge one of the greatest French literary heroines than the French themselves? The Actors: Van Heflin is totally believable as Charles Bovary. Louis Jourdan is perfect as Rodolphe, and makes a beautiful match to Jennifer Jones. James Mason is thoughtful and earnest as the great author, Gustave Flaubert, who also serves as the narrator. CONCLUSION: "Madame Bovary" is a remarkable achievement in filmmaking. Its longevity has been established, due in part to the cohesive elements listed above. Take note to all of these elements when you watch the film-it will be a much more illuminating and satisfying experience."
A little masterpiece
W. Oliver | Alabama | 03/21/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If you have read the great Flaubert novel and are expecting a film to equal it in its grandeur, then you may be disappointed. However, if you can settle for a beautifully filmed Hollywoodized adaption of the novel, then this is it. First of all, the cinematography and the sets are excellent. You can tell that they are sets but they are very well done. The acting, especially Jennifer Jones in the title role, is outstanding. Supporting cast is fine also with the always memorable Gladys Cooper and the incredibly handsome Louis Jourdan especially stand out. And look for Ellen Corby (Grandma Walton) as the maid. Two scenes are highly notable - the ball sequence is spectacular and the scene where Emma awaits Rodolphe on the deserted windswept streets in the middle of the night is beautifully done. Overall, a stunning acheivement by director Vincente Minnelli."
Branden H. O'neal | 07/18/1998
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Incredible cinematography that conveys and reflects a part that all of us posses or at the very least dream about. It is portrayed to such an extent that we feel exactly like the main character, however shameful she may be. Filmed in 1949, it is suprising that such a novel was able to be made into a movie at a time of strict censorship without destroying and conveying even more the message the author intended for the reader. Jenifer Jones portrays the main role disturbingly beatiful and relatable to the veiwers in such a way that we feel exactly how or what she feels, suffers, and deludes herself as. When I first veiwed it 12 years ago, it affercted me so much so that I had to veiw the movie, or at least certain scenes almost everyday such as the part when she meets Louie Jordan in her husbands office.The reaction on her face to the meeting is so impressive that you know exactly what she is thinking even as she remains silent.The Vaubyessard ball is a spectacular one s! hot sequence that summarizes the whole book in that one scean. Without even having read the book you get a very clear picture of what the story conveys and intends even if the movie does not at times chime in with the sequence of events in the book. A five star rating for the movie and Miss Jones for an incredibly relatable portrayal. A must read and must see movie for those who may want to see a part of themselves that does exist in all of us. END"
Good film version of a literary classic
Quilmiense | USA/Spain | 04/18/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
Minnelli directed this with his usual tact and talent, though it remains not one of his best works. The stellar cast, however, is excellent, dominating it is Jennifer Jones, beautiful as she can be, and in a paranoic role that suits her well. The sets, costumes, dancing scenes, etc. are shot in Minnelli's typical style. The thing is that a literary classic as this story is is quite impossible to translate into cinema. Hitchcock never dared (he knew better), and explained to Truffaut why these experiments were doomed to fail.
A story like "Madame Bovary" belongs in the books, it's a marriage of language and the imagination. But if somebody had to do it no one better suited than Minnelli."
Masterful adaptation of a difficult piece.
J. Kara Russell | Hollywood - the cinderblock Industrial cubicle | 05/01/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Madame Bovary is a difficut piece to translate to film. It is very easy for the heroine to become either dislikable: either willfull (the PBS version with Francesca Annis) or peevish (the Isabelle Hubert french version).
What Minnelli so masterfully and ironically captures here is the "dream machine" that drives Madame Bovary (and society) to be dissatisfied with their daily lives, to want and need more and therefore to be perpetually unhappy with what they have. Of course, Minnelli was part of that machine for Hollywood, which is the irony. Here he uses the period-correct analogy of romance novels and magazine ads (and to a lesser extent operas and plays) as vehicles that feed and drive Bovary's dissonance with her reality. (James Mason as Flaubert, too!)
The irony that Flaubert was faulted for denegrating the french woman is fully captured here as well. This version still doesn't get to a real meaty statement of realization that men were not considered immorral or corrupt it they have affairs and forget about their children; but women were. Personally, I think that may have been one of Flaubert's real points - this same behavior would have been tolerated and venerated in a male.
Where this production succeeds so brilinatly over the others I mentioned is in the writing and performance of Emma. She is clearly delineated as being a victim of the commercials of her time - the ultimate consumer, and therefore very identifiable. Jone's own personal charm also factors in here. Her fresh innocence and desire to be liked and to entertain come through the role and make her sweeter. Annis is often a bit self satisfied and Hubbert ice cold, making their Emmas less likable, although perfectly valid and well performed roles, just the difference that writing, production and acting bring to the role.
Minnelli liked women and identified with foibles. He gives a very nice slant to Dr. Bovary, too. (Gives him a little more self knowledge and honor than Flaubert did, which also colors the relationship and the film.) Louis Jordan as her dream man is also colored very nicely here, as being sincerely in love with her and very conflicted. Something he does very well, and this all creates a marvelously satisfying production and package. When you add the great score, you have a very fine film indeed."