Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Film Review: THE EARRINGS OF MADAME DE... (1953, Max Ophüls)

Stars: 2.5 of 5.
Running Time: 105 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Charles Boyer, Vittorio de Sica, Jean Galland, Danielle Darrieux.
Tag-lines: " It was her vanity that destroyed her." By the way, I don't think that's an official tag-line, but it was on IMDB, and I love it.
Best one-liner(s): "I spend a very great deal of money." Yeah you do, Madame de.

Yes, yes, I understand that life's all one endless, whirling dance. But may we focus on some more interesting partners? THE EARRINGS OF MADAME DE... is all about Madame de, and Madame de is a total dick. She's spoiled, whiny, bored, and in debt because she spends so much on her extravagant lifestyle. I feel so sorry for you, Madame de, you must decide which of your myriad gems and furs you must pawn.

What a dick.

And the whole 'We're going to stop short, or obscure it from view, or have a loud noise every time we're about to reveal Madame de's full name' thing starts off as contrived, becomes fairly irritating, and then finally is full-blown annoying. But the film is beautiful. The lighting, cinematography, and tracking shots are exquisite. But it'd be like if Errol Morris poured in his heart, soul, majestic visuals, and a Philip Glass score into a John Stossel "Give me a Break" segment on 20/20. It's all for naught.

And we're supposed to sympathize with Madame de when she cheats on Monsieur de (Charles Boyer), who is a little old and crusty, but he's a fairly solid dude. He's totally thoughtful, too- he spends 20 some minutes senselessly looking for the earrings that his wife pawned earlier.
Vittorio de Sica (director, BICYCLE THIEVES, etc.) is the dashing, elderly "other man," and he's a pretty nice guy as well. It's too bad they have to duel each other over Madame de. "How can you fight over a woman like me?" she says. I couldn't have put it better myself, Madame de. Two and half stars, only for Ophuls' flowing editing and glorious visuals. If you're in the mood for a serious French drama with greater emotional weight, check out Jacques Becker's CASQUE D'OR.

-Sean Gill

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