Monday, July 16, 2007

The Earrings of Madame de... (1953)

Sumptuous, justly famous melodrama about a rich countess, the general who is her husband, the baron who is her lover and a much-bandied pair of diamond earrings fascinates in that director Max Ophüls's visual obsession with the surface of things perfectly reflects the surface-level feelings of his characters and how everything goes wrong when those affections get below the surface. (Like the love between the baron and the countess, it's only superficially superficial.) As such, it's interesting to note how the significance of the earrings changes each time they find their way back to Danielle Darrieux's countess -- they start as a superfluous signifier of a dead marriage, but by film's end they've transformed into a painful token of the only love Madame de... has ever known. The arc of the film is pure melodrama, but it's put forth wonderfully by careful, knowing characterization and some splendid acting on the parts of Darrieux, Charles Boyer (as the general) and Vittorio de Sica (as the baron). Plus, the film's just bloody gorgeous. The long seductive sequence, in particular, where the countess and the baron fall in love over a series of dances is spectacular, time compression at its finest.

Grade: A-


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