Saturday, March 3, 2018

Mrs. Of

Another recent watch was The Earrings of Madame de..., which TCM ran during the Star of the Month Salute to Charles Boyer and which is available on DVD courtesy of the Criterion Collection.

Madame Louise de... (played by Danielle Darrieux; the last name is never revealed), is an upper-class housewife in 19th century Paris (the exact time frame is never given) who has an affinity for spending vast sums of money that her general husband André (Charles Boyer) earns. I didn't think generals earned that much, but there you are. Anyhow, Louise has run up a bunch of debts, and doesn't want her husband to know about them. So she makes a deal with the jeweler Rémy that she'll sell a pair of diamond earrings to him to make the money to pay the debt. She then makes of big show of the earrings getting "lost".

Rémy doesn't want to bring any embarrassment to her or her husband, so he discreetly, and unbeknownst to Louise, approaches André to tell him his wife sold him back the earrings, and giving André an opportunity to buy them back. André does, and gives them to his mistress Lola, who only has a brief appearance in the movie. Lola is just as spendthrift as Louise, and promptely loses enough money gambling in Constantinople that she has to sell the earrings. The Italian diplomat Baron Donati (Vittorio De Sica) buys them to use at a later date.

Donati being a diplomat, eventually gets sent to Paris, where he meets Louise, and falls in love with her. The feeling is mutual, because André spends so much time away thanks to his military career. Donati eventually gives the earrings to Louise as a gift, having no idea that Louise already had these earrings in the past. Of course, she doesn't know what happened with the earrings in between.

Louise is at first reluctant to wear the earrings, but then she realizes that she can come up with a lie about finding the earrings after all this time. She, remember, has no clue that André knows she had sold them, and certainly doesn't have any idea that André would be able to figure out that with the earrings having made their way to Constantinople, it would have been Donati who gave them to her. Complications and tragedy ensue.

The Earrings of Madame de... is one of those movies that is often praised as one of the best of all time but that, I have to admit, left me mildly underwhelmed. I think the thing for me was that the movie really started falling flat in the third act, once André realizes that Donati bought the earrings and gave them to Louise. The story up to then is quite good, however.

There are other things I noticed on a cursory first viewing that I hadn't realized the critics mentioned. One would be director Max Ophüls' very fluid camera movement, which is fairly obvious from some of the tracking shots. There was also a dance montage of Louise and Donati at the beginning of their relationship when I couldn't help but think of Alfred Hitchcock and Rope based on the way the cutting has the scene shift from one night out to the next.

The Earrings of Madame de... is a movie that everybody probably ought to watch at least once. I don't know that I'd be interested in getting the DVD to watch again, but I can see why many people would be.

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