Dagnabit, I’ve been Ophül’d again….recklessly.
Mesdames et monsieurs, this is the second blogathon of the new year and we’re heading all the way to France for it. Serendipitous Anachronisms is hosting her first-ever blogathon and we’re in the country of wine and cheese and all things French. Please, click on the banner and peruse all the entries that are spread out over the next two days. I will tackle one of the great romantic dramas of classic film.
I enjoy “THE EARRINGS OF MADAME DE…” This ironic tale with Max Ophüls’ famed camera work sweeps me up in a tide of emotion that carries me through this sad love story. A little white lie metastasizes into love…into a love triangle. I’ve seen love triangles before. We all have. But I can’t remember ever feeling sorry for all three points of the triangle. Someone is usually the villain. Danielle Darrieux, Charles Boyer and Vittorio De Sica perfectly depict the role of Wife, Husband and Lover. And earrings will be Madame de…’s downfall.
Are you up for taking a journey with me through the busy dizzying love-soaked world of Max Ophüls? I hope you are. It will be a little lengthy. Read me on your ride to work, waiting for your doctor’s appointment, noshing in your favorite little coffee shop. I hope to help you enjoy the ride. There will be spoilers.
“I answered all your letters, my love. But I never had the courage to mail my replies.” Madame de…
Max Ophüls, I must love you for allowing myself to be
entombed cocooned in the world of the Baroque; the frou frou world of fussbudgetry filled with ornate surroundings and bustles, top hats and horse & carriages. It’s so not my thing, so I had to make sure I settled my mind quick with that, b’cuz I was going to spend some time in that world. Ophüls shows us a life teeming with the hustle and bustle of activity of maids and butlers scurrying amidst the high society set. It looked like a cast of millions with the activity of a Grand Central Station’s five o’clock quittin’ time. There are fancy dress balls, government settings, railway stations and military field work with lots of folks milling about, engulfing these three tragic people.
DANIELLE DARRIEUX ~ As The Wife, Madame Louise de… . She’s kind of like a Gallic Scarlet O’Hara. Not that she has much of Scarlett’s strength and fortitude, but she does fiddle dee dee her way through life. Madame de… is the belle of the ball. All the men swoon over her. All the men want her. She’s got closets and drawers of things; oodles and oodles of furs and jewelry and…things. Zomeone has been taking very good care of zee Madame. She’s vacuous, walks through life like a zombie. Is she even aware she is flirting? Poor gal’s not even really in touch with her own feelings. She thinks in the moment. And in this moment…she must pawn some earrings to get some cash. In another moment, she’ll fall in love.
CHARLES BOYER ~ As General Andre de… – The Husband. I must admit, I’m still a little gun-shy when it comes to Boyer, what with the way he treated Ingrid Bergman in “Gaslight” but I can hear you all loudly say: “Get over yourself, M’Ava! Chill out.” Alright, alright…I’ll let that go. (Sheesh!) Guess he got his romantic street cred back with “History Is Made At Night.” When the General’s told her earrings are missing, his search for them at the concert hall made me increasingly uncomfortable. Ophüls takes a good five minutes of screen time to follow him searching for these baubles. Five-minutes is a long time. Just think about Hitchcock having us watch Norman Bates clean up that motel bathroom his mother went berserk in. So the length of time we spend watching the General was uncomfortable. Not only was I fearful that Madame de… would be caught in a lie, but I felt the General was the possessive/obsessive-type. The diligence and detail of his search brought to mind Inspector Javert in “Les Miserables” or Lt. Gerard in “The Fugitive.” He does not give up until he finds what he wants. It’s not till later we see how devoted and in love he is with her.
VITTORIO DE SICA ~ As diplomat Baron Donati – The Lover. He is so elegant, so dashing, so handsome…so courtly. I must correct myself. I earlier wrote that it took one moment for Madame de…to fall in love. That’s not quite right. ‘Twas The Baron who falls instantly when he sees her at the railway station’s Customs Section. I think Madame de…is merely intrigued by his attention at that point. Attention was her “key light.” Fate went the Baron’s way, when their carriage wheels entangle. They meet yet again at a ball and here is where love begins in earnest.
Strange as this may sound, I think we are seeing three people helpless in what they feel.
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