Universally heralded as a masterpiece, this is essentially a shaggy dog story about a pair of earrings which change hands for a variety of reasons. Contessa Madame de… (Danielle Darrieux) is obliged to pay off debts by selling the earrings, a gift from her errant husband. When said spouse, General André de… (Charles Boyer), discovers they are missing he advertises for their return. He then gives the returned earrings to his mistress Lola, who later sells them on … “After numerous viewings I’m happy to call Max Ophüls’s Madame de… […] flawless. […] This masterpiece stars Danielle Darrieux as a wilful French countess in fin-de-siècle Paris who falls in love with an Italian diplomat (Vittorio De Sica). […] Darrieux has never looked more entrancing.” (Philip French, theguardian.com)
Dir: Max Ophüls 100mins France 1953
Earrings are at the centre of this convoluted story (based on a novel by Louise de Vilmorin) which begins in Vienna in the 19th century. They are, initially, the property of aristocratic socialite Comtesse Louise – whose second name is never mentioned, hence Madame de… of the film’s title. The tale starts to unfold when the faithless Comtesse Louise secretly pawns the earrings, which had been a wedding present from her husband General Andre, to pay off her debts.
In the style of Ophuls’ earlier and justifiably famous La Ronde (1950), a complex and irresistible chain of events follows, eventually leading to Louise being given the earrings once again but this time as a present from her lover, Baron Donati. The film explores, with wit and visual elegance, the web of complicity, deceit, intrigue and adulterous love affairs that arises as the earrings repeatedly change hands.
Danielle Darrieux, who was one of France’s greatest stars and who turned 100 years old in May 2017, died in October of that year after a film career spanning eight decades, amongst the longest in film history. Originally completed with a runtime of 192mins, the film was cut to 105mins for its 1953 cinema release: it was restored in 2014 for its DVD transfer.
Acknowledgements: Derek Winnert, derekwinnert.com
“Max Ophüls’s penultimate film […] has a unique structure: it starts out as a sunny, flirtatious, aristocratic comedy but it’s not long before the clouds roll in and the mood darkens into tragedy” Rod McShane, Time Out
“It’s full of characteristically graceful tracking shots, the editing is superb, and in her third consecutive Ophüls film, Darrieux has never looked more entrancing” Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian
Général André de… – Charles Boyer
Comtesse Louise de… – Danielle Darrieux
Baron Frabizio Donati – Vittorio de Sica
Monsieur Rémy – Jean Debucourt
Monsieur de Bernac -Jean Galland
Director – Max Ophüls
Producer – Ralph Baum (uncredited)
Screenplay – Max Ophüls, Marcel Achard
Cinematography – Christian Matras
Original Music – Oscar Straus, Georges van Parys – Georges Anennkov
- Bien charmant!
- I’m lost for words!
- A wonderful, wonderful film, with great, ‘old-school’, style. I’d love to see the 192min version!
- So stylish – but did they really live like that?
- While the emphasis of the plot on the earrings (an absolute ‘McGuffin’) might alienate some viewers, this film was worth seeing alone for the amazing on-screen chemistry between Danielle Darrieux and Vittorio de Sica
- One of the strongest condemnations of patriarchy I’ve ever encountered. I simply don’t know if that was Ophuls’ intention but it’s what he produced
- I’m sure it was artistically good but not my cup of tea
- Well made but story a bit weak
- Too unbelievable
- Plot too convoluted
- An interesting tale but what a mysterious finale!
- Too bad it got a bit overwrought at the end
- Not so much fun to be young, rich and beautiful ….