In the Paris of the late 19th century, Louise, wife of a general, sells the earrings her husband gave her as a wedding gift: she needs money to cover her debts. The general secretly buys the earrings again and gives them to his mistress, Lola, leaving to go to Constantinople. Where an Italian diplomat, Baron Donati, buys them. Back to Paris, Donati meets Louise... So now Louise discovers love and becomes much less frivolous.Written by
I keep wondering where these amazing treasures, such as "The Earrings of Madame De..." have been all my life. This 1953 Max Ophuls film is magnificent in every respect - direction, acting, script, photography, with just the right touch of humor for what is, in essence, a tragic love story.
It is 19th Century France. Danielle Darrieux is "Comtesse Louise De..." who in the beginning of the film sells a pair of heart-shaped earrings given to her by her husband, General Andre De... (Charles Boyer), as she has some expenses that she must meet. She trusts the jeweler's confidentiality. During a production of "Orfeo e Euridice," she announces to Andre that she's left her earrings somewhere. However, the jeweler tells Andre about the sale; Andre buys back the earrings and gives them to his girlfriend, whom he's dumping. When she needs gambling money, she sells them, and they are purchased by Baron Donati (Vittorio di Sica) as a gift for his new girlfriend - the Comtesse Louise! The earrings are a symbol of fate, the volatility of love, and the meaning of possession. The General is a possessive man, but he wants to have his cake and eat it, too, presenting these beautiful earrings to two women. The Comtesse doesn't want the earrings when they're from her husband; when they're from her lover, she's desperate to find a way that she can wear them and resorts to manipulation in order to do so. For Donati, they're a symbol of romantic love, but when he realizes that his beloved is flesh and blood and not totally truthful, he becomes disillusioned.
All of this is done with looks, a word, a suggestion, a dance, the placement of furniture (the General and Comtesse sleep in the same room, miles apart) - nothing too overt. The delicacy and subtlety of the film is magical.
The beautiful Danielle Darrieux, now 92 and with a film coming out next year, does a beautiful job as the flirtatious Louise, who becomes more involved than she planned - she goes from flirty to passionate and finally to desperate. DeSica is a handsome and charming suitor; and Boyer has just the right amount of edge on his performance. He's not the monster of "Gaslight," but an authoritative Frenchman who doesn't want a scandal and becomes annoyed when he sees that his wife's romance has gone a little too far.
With its fluid photography, pace, and romance, "The Earrings of Madame de..." is a true gem. No other way to describe it.
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