Leave the cannoli, take the movies

Review Blog

The Earrings of Madame de...

Posted by Jonathan Leithold-Patt on May 31, 2012 at 10:55 PM


Max Ophüls


IDEA:  When Madame de... sells her expensive earrings to pay off debts, it starts a fateful chain reaction of tragic consequences.

BLURB:  In what must be one of the most sumptuously luxuriant mise-en-scènes in all of cinema, the camera swoops and swirls around halls of glass, floats among sparkling diamonds and billowing frocks, darts around rooms and across furnishings, always soaking in a lush, veritable feast of rococo extravagance. The decadent atmosphere is irresistible, the use of dissolves and swooning, dancing camera gestures orchestrated to take your breath away. The handle Ophüls has on the (very) moving image here is astounding, to be certain – would his fairly standard love triangle have been as interesting. Which is not to say there isn’t a good deal to be won over by: the use of the titular earrings, shifting drastically in substance and worth as they’re passed from one owner to the next, serve as a rather potent narrative backbone, meanwhile standing in as the film’s most overarching and recurrent symbol. When the earrings are given away as a representation of the Madame’s coldness towards her husband, they acquire a meaning her glittery bourgeois façade was never designed to withstand, burning away the excess to reveal the shallow callousness living underneath. The Earrings of Madame de… capitalizes on those two things the most – excess and shallowness – to a fault, but manages to rapture us anyway.

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