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HALL OF FAMEon 16 April 2007
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 it 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.

The DVD from Second Sight has a fine black-and-white transfer. There are two significant extras. The first is "Working with Max Ophuls." The second is a film essay on Ophuls by Tag Gallagher, identified as a film historian. It begins with this quote by Ophuls, "The camera exists to create a new art -- to show what can't be seen elsewhere, neither in theater nor in life." The essay shows us how Ophuls achieved this, and should be must viewing by any film student.
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HALL OF FAMEon 27 September 2008
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 it 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.

The Region Two DVD from Second Sight has a fine black-and-white transfer. There are two significant extras. The first is "Working with Max Ophuls." The second is a film essay on Ophuls by Tag Gallagher, identified as a film historian. It begins with this quote by Ophuls, "The camera exists to create a new art -- to show what can't be seen elsewhere, neither in theater nor in life." The essay shows us how Ophuls achieved this, and should be must viewing by any film student.
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on 13 February 2007
Superlative direction with performances to match in this disarming tale about the bourgeoisie and what shallow lives they lead.A countess parts with a set of earrings to pay off a debt little realising the consequences on her life and that of others as we follow the earrings on their trail of destruction.Highly stylised with some dazzling tracking shots this is almost the definition of romantic cinema.
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 7 February 2012
Madame de ... is my favourite Ophuls film, and a fabulous example of his tracking shots which enabled his camera to pass through walls, as Godard said of him. The story is lightweight, even trivial, but this allows him to display the elegance of his style to the full, and it is transcendently elegant, having never quite been equalled before or since in this regard. The cover of the box gives some idea of this, albeit static of course (and the movement is everything): Darrieux in a stunning dress with a dazzling dragonfly-wing shape at the top flying off each bare arm, all rueful glances and worldliness as de Sica helps her into her coat, his love having turned to indifference irrevocably. It is a film of surfaces but makes of this a supreme virtue, and in that sense is the perfect equivalent to the source novella, but it comes across as much less slight because it is a cinematic statement 'sans pareil'. The opening credits, all swirly letters over the theme tune - a ravishing waltz - set the tone, followed by Madame de ...'s hand roving over various items in her boudoir trying to find something to sell, and not wanting to part with anything - although heaven knows there is enough there ... it has a kind of camp that is irresistible. The ball montage in the middle, where several scenes are elided into one long dance sequence, only distinguishable by Darrieux's changes of dress, is extraordinary, the dialogues showing them falling ever deeper in love with each twirl. The motif of the earrings is exquisitely made to yield up the maximum significance in terms of the feelings they are associated with, and the meaning of giving them, or being forced to part with them ... Of course there is tragedy, but tone could not be more swoonsome ...
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on 29 August 2012
It took me years to appreciate French films of the classic era (Jean Gabin, Michel Simon, Michele Morgan, Simone Signoret etc. in the films of Renoir, Carne and Becker), and it was a little longer before I found the cinema of Max Ophuls. What an absolute treasure trove of complete mastery of cinematic arts.

When he returned to France after his very interesting spell in Hollywood ("Letter From an Unknown Woman" should be viewed from this period, at all costs), he made four films that even the iconoclastic "New Wave" directors appreciated greatly. He started with "La Ronde" banned in many countries for some time, before they finally saw the light. If anyone wants to see the great French actors of the early 1950s, this should be essential viewing. Simone Signoret, Serge Reggiani, Simone Simon, Daniel Gelin, Danielle Darrieux, Fernand Gravey, Odette Joyeux, Jean-Louis Barrault, Isa Miranda and Gerard Philipe. What more could you want? A brilliant and fascinating film.

That was followed by "Le Plaisir", which, again, had a stellar cast, including the aforesaid Simone Simon, Daniel Gelin and Danielle Darrieux and added Jean Gabin and Madeleine Renaud - both excellent, as might be expected.

Then came the piece de resistance, namely "Madame de....". Other reviewers have described the plot perfectly well,so there is little point in describing it again. It was obvious from the previous two films that Danielle Darrieux was Ophuls' muse and she is quite magical in this, going from being callous and flirtatious to being ecstatically in love to the final denouement. A master-class in acting, whilst I cannot think of any other actress who looked as magnificent as she does in this masterpiece. And, yet, she is matched by Charles Boyer, in probably his best role (amongst so many) - it was his second collaboration with Darrieux after the 1936 "Mayerling" - and Vittorio de Sica, now probably better known as a director (Bicycle Thieves)than as an actor, but, then, he was exactly right to play Baron Donati.

The camera-work is constantly brilliant, as was the case in all of Ophuls' films and the famous set-piece of the sequence of balls where Madame de... and the Baron meet and dance together is justly feted. No-one would have the nerve to do it this way nowadays, but watch the way that Ophuls directs that sequence and you will see how it should be done. Unforgettable.

Whatever you do, see this film. It is absolutely complete in every respect and has stunning performances by the three leads and,of course, by the director.
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on 20 December 2008
This is a treasurable film directed by a great cinemagraphic craftsman. The story may not be particularly original, but it is brought to life by the strong character performances of a highly-skilled cast, and the intelligent and sensitive eye of the camera deployed to perfection. The extra feature - a critical analysis of the film - is perceptive and intelligent. Black and white is every shade of light in "Madame De..."
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on 16 September 2010
There is a gourmet's pleasure in watching the camera weave its way in travel and dolly shots as it identifies the earrings at the centre of this parable on the vagaries of love lost and found. Lost for a cheating and self-absorbed husband (Boyer) and found for a suitor (de Sica) that responds to the yearnings of a lonely and subtly deceitful wife. Certainly one of the most stylish films I can recall with an irresistible Darrieux the vortex of de Sica's passion and Boyer's punctured pride. All the superficial beauty does not hide the ugliness that goes with human emotions, though. I found that this film lingered in my mind for several days as new aspects would emerge that added to its delight as a cinematic experience of the highest order.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 30 June 2015
In the form of a pair of diamond earrings, Max Ophuls’ 1953 masterpiece provides one of the most memorable cinematic metaphors for love, fulfilment and fate to have reached the big screen. But, not only is Madame De… a powerful, tragic love story, it is also a fast-moving, witty, satire on the pretence of early 20th century(?) Parisian aristocracy (driven along by a superb, frequently ironic, script – courtesy of Ophuls and Marcel Achard) in which Danielle Darrieux’s eponymous (and 'anonymous’) heroine is (eventually) brought up short by fate and forced to face the consequences of the illusion of a hedonistic, carefree existence. This combination of the comedic and the tragic, together with the film’s 'technical qualities’ – stunning cinematography (fluid tracking shots, framing, craneshots, dissolves between scenes, etc) by Christian Matras and a lush, classical score (with an intoxicating main theme) by Oscar Straus and Georges van Parys – make Madame De…, for me, an irresistible cinematic experience.

The acting on show here should also not be underestimated. Darrieux is outstanding (in a performance of considerable complexity) as the apparently carefree, but increasingly flustered, passionate and distraught, Comtesse Louise de…, whose profligacy has forced her to sell her prized earrings. But, equally impressive, in a less obviously emotive role, is Charles Boyer’s pragmatic, dignified and uncompromisingly honourable (though with mistress in tow), general (and husband) André de…, whose apparent indifference to his 'open’ marriage ('It seems superficial only superficially’) is eventually stretched beyond socially acceptable limits by his wife’s (latest) amour, Vittorio De Sica’s Italian Baron Fabrizio Donati (in a solid, rather than spectacular, performance).

Ophuls’ depiction of the vagaries of the prevailing class system (aristocratic and other) is consistently sharp and frequently hilarious – such as the panic (in the 'lower orders’) provoked by the ‘missing’ earrings and the offence felt by fellow aristocrats as the general 'checks out’ potential wearers of the missing jewellery. But, equally, as our eponymous heroine continues to be frustrated by her unfulfilled existence (and the prospect of life with the Baron seems ever distant), Madame De….’s gradual emotional descent is one of cinema’s most memorable – for me, reminiscent of that of Lily Bart in Terence Davies’ classic interpretation of the Edith Wharton novel, The House Of Mirth. Other films Madame De… reminds me of (at various points) include Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne and (even) La Règle du Jeu and Les Enfants du Paradis (and you can’t get much higher recommendations than those).
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on 29 January 2015
Real score: 4 stars
Adjusted for Amazon reviewers getting it wrong: 4 stars (not necessary!)

In a similar way to Renoir's La règle du jeu, Madame de... seems extremely bitter about the society it is set in, with characters who are unlikeable, materialistic, false and shallow. Keeping up appearances is of the utmost importance, rank hypocrisy reigns in relation to the relative affairs of men and women, and a pair of earrings is both a handy and useful catalyst for proceedings but also a symbol of unhealthy decadence and undeserved wealth and prosperity.

This film has been criticised, specifically by Lindsay Anderson, for being "an excuse for a succession of rich, decorative displays..." I think this misses the point somewhat, as this surface level of beauty and unrestrained opulence is precisely what Ophüls seems to be attacking. The central character is not portrayed in a positive light for spending too much money, for having a huge number of beautiful objects from which to choose something to sell, for subsequently lying about losing the earrings causing it to be reported as a theft, for lying further to her new lover, for obsessing over an object as a symbol of her love rather than the love itself... etc. All the way through we see the human cost of this type of bourgeois wastefulness, this lack of appreciation for monetary matters and an absolute focus and obsession with how things appear. Several of the characters are in debt, including some minor characters thrown in for good measure (the man at the opera who the General has loaned money to, the General's ex-mistress who seems to lose all of her money and possessions gambling in a period of about three minutes, his niece who immediately sells the earrings when given them as a gift) and yet all of them continue to spend their time at expensive balls, on expensive clothes and jewels, etc. Similarly, human interaction is micro-managed and obsessively planned to avoid any controversy or gossip. The General seems well aware that his wife may be having some sort of affair with the Italian diplomat, but rather than attempt to stop it he tries to limit the damage to his reputation as much as possible. When it goes too far and he feels he is "compromised" by the actions of his wife he challenges Donati to a duel on some pretext, killing him in the process; a man's life for his reputation.

Louise herself spends most of the latter half of the film obsessing over the earrings she originally sold, seemingly more concerned by their loss than by the fact that Donati has given her up for lying about their origin (a very flimsy pretext for doing so and possibly another dig at the whimsical nature of aristocratic male affection). It is strongly implied that she has had other affairs, or at least that she leads other men on, all of which is contrasted with her hypocritical and very bourgeois Catholicism; at the beginning she prays that her husband will forgive her for selling the earrings if he finds out, an outrageously petty and self-centred prayer for a supposedly religious person to make. Later, the earrings become the ultimate sacrifice, as she leaves them on the altar as a symbol of what she is willing to give up; a mere object, given a ridiculous importance by almost everyone in the film, but especially Louise.

It's not quite La règle du jeu but it is a very beautiful and yet harsh film, and a great example of a movie filled with hateful characters who are still wonderful to watch.
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on 1 May 2015
Max Ophuls was one of the all time greatest directors with a least a half dozen classic movies to his name.Unfortunately since his movies are rarely shown on television and are usually only shown in retrospectives in cinemas his movies are not very well known to mainstream audiences which is a pity because movies like Lola Montes,Le Ronde and this one are masterworks.The story of a countess who sells off her valuable earrings behind her husbands back and who promptly tells her husband their lost only for him to discover the truth as the earrrings go from one owner to the next.This is a incredibly clever movie about deceit and infidelities ,elegantly made with precision to detail and featuring superb performances from Charles Boyer,Danielle Darrieux and Vittorio De Sica. Stanley Kubrick once claimed Ophuls was his favourite director and i can't think of any greater praise than that.Total perfection.
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