8 June 2017

THE BFI PRESENTS: MADAME DE... (1953) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.




THE EARRINGS OF MADAME DE... aka MADAME DE... (1953) DIRECTED BY MAX OPHULS. BASED ON THE NOVEL BY LOUISE LEVEQUE DE VILMORIN. STARRING DANIELLE DARRIEUX, CHARLES BOYER, VITTORIO DE SICA AND LIA DE LEO. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

'I don't love you, I don't love you, I don't love you, I don't love you, I don't love you...!'

Ooooh, I do love a good period drama, by which I mean that I like to curl up with a nice costume drama when it's my time of the month, haha. Yes, I've been waiting to use that joke for a while, how sad is that?

Any-hoo, this film has been described by a chap called Andrew Sarris as 'the most perfect film ever made.' Now, I don't know who he is but his words make good sense. This is a gorgeous historical drama that centres on a very simple premise, namely the titular earrings of a grand lady whose surname we never know.

But, regarding the earrings, therein hangs a tale that will keep you riveted to your screen for the one hundred and five minutes of the film's duration, and there aren't too many inanimate objects you can say that about.

No-one ever made a film about my busted electric sandwich-maker, for example, though it's served me well over the years. I'm trying to find a buyer for it at the moment, by the way. Any takers? Email me privately, heh-heh-heh. I'll do you a good price...!

Anyway, the Madame De of the film's title is a rich middle-aged French noblewoman, the Comtesse Louise, who has preserved her figure and good looks well into her forties. Childless and married to a Count who is also a high-ranking army man, she seems to have little enough to do with her time besides constantly changing her outfit and fiddling with her many accessories before dining out or going to the opera or the theatre with Andre, her hubby.

She's a likeable enough character but she is undoubtedly shallow and superficial in some ways and quite vain about her appearance. She's always admiring herself in mirrors, primping and preening like it's going out of fashion. Talk about 'Mirror, Mirror on the wall...!'

She has neither children nor a worthwhile job, so she just flits about all day being a social butterfly. It's nice work if you can get it, but life needs some meaning to it too surely, doesn't it? Someone once said that a man (or woman) can always be judged by the people who love him and the work that he does well and conscientiously, and he wasn't wrong, whoever he was. You've gotta do something with your life that gives you a feeling of accomplishment. What does Louise do? She puts on a different necklace and changes her black satin gloves for white ones.

She's the Count's trophy wife, as it were, the one who looks good on his arm at the social functions they constantly attend, but they don't sleep together and, in fact, the Count has a mistress whom, one suspects, is only the latest in a long line of extra-curricular floozies. It's a sad state of affairs, if you'll excuse the pun.

Louise is not above having a romantic dalliance of her own, however. The story of her emotional attachment to a man called the Baron Fabrizio Donati, whom she meets by chance, is told through the rather amazing journey of a pair of heart-shaped diamond earrings.

The earrings were a wedding gift to the Comtesse Louise from her hubby, Andre. Louise foolishly sells the earrings back to the jeweller from which they came when she finds herself in a financial fix caused by her over-spending. The earrings are then passed from person to person in the most remarkable way, propelling the plot forward a little more each time they dramatically re-appear in Louise's life.

While the earrings are acquainting themselves with a series of new- or newish- owners, Louise is falling ever more desperately in love with the dashing Baron. Gossip and rumours abound as she spends every night dancing and waltzing dreamily in his capable arms while her hubby is conveniently away on business.

Louise's husband is fully aware of the affair which, I think, is never consummated physically but which is definitely as real and strong for Louise and her lover emotionally as if they slept together every night. Until, that is, Louise's tissue of 'little white lies' entraps all three of them in a web of intrigue that is as dangerous as it is complicated...

Louise is a very silly woman, really. She has everything she could possibly need in life in the
way of material comforts but she's not happy. Her husband Andre has to take a lot of the responsibility for this, as he's an emotionally and physically neglectful spouse. 

But Louise must shoulder some of the blame for her own predicament. After all, as the old saying goes, 'oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practise to deceive...' Never tell lies, that's the moral of this sorry tale. They invariably come back to bite you in the ass. I remember the time I... Well, that story's probably still a bit sensitive for public consumption. I should probably keep it under my hat for a bit longer. I'll tell ye someday, I swear.

THE EARRINGS OF MADAME DE... is a visually stunning black-and-white French-language film. The dresses, jewels and interiors are all magnificent to look at. After watching the film, I literally felt like I'd been in another (much nicer) era for a couple of hours.

I was actually annoyed when the credits brought me back to annoying reality and I remembered that I had to defrost the cat and take the fridge to the vet for its ear infection. Doesn't life totally suck sometimes...?

This gorgeous film is out now on special release from the British Film Institute in a nifty Dual Format Edition (DVD and Blu-Ray). As a matter of fact, it was screened at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival on the first of May in honour of the actress Danielle Darrieux's 100th birthday, which would have been a wonderful tribute to a marvellous actress. She's still alive and kicking, by the way, an incredible feat by anyone's standards, and her eighty-year career is one of the longest in film history.

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to attend the Cannes Film Festival this year due to financial embarrassment and the fact that I'm a big nobody in the movie world with practically zero influence and only dodgy connections at best. I know you'll all find that hard to believe but it's true, sadly.

Otherwise I'd be able to tell ye how it went, which celebrities I rubbed shoulders and hob-nobbed with and whose chauffeur I misguidedly performed a naughty act on because he promised to pass my phone number to Johnny Depp or Michael Fassbender or even Scarlett Johansson but he never did, the dirty rotten liar.

Haha, ye know I'm only messing with ye. I'm such a kidder. Hopefully next year my true potential as a film critic will be recognised and I'll be back at Cannes where I belong. Cue evil laugh. 'Mwah-hahahahahahaha...!'

Danielle Darrieux turns out a career-best performance as the tragic Madame De..., a character who almost rivals literature's other tragic heroine, MADAME BOVARY, for foolishness and naivete that lead to unspeakable pain and suffering, mainly for themselves. The film comes complete, by the way, with the following smashing special features:

Special features
  • Presented in High Definition and Standard Definition
  • Max Ophuls, le peintre de l'amour fatal (Dominique Maillet, 2013, 61 mins): A documentary on Max Ophuls and the making of Madame de… featuring interviews with his collaborators
  • Working with Max Ophuls (Robert Fischer, 2005, 27 mins): interview with Alain Jessua about his training under Max Ophuls and his experiences of working on Madame de…
  • Illustrated booklet with writing by Laura Mulvey, Adrian Danks, and Lindsay Anderson; tributes to the director and full film credits
BFI releases are available from all good home entertainment retailers or by mail order from the BFI Shop. Tel: 020 7815 1350 or online at www.bfi.org.uk/shop

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

 You can contact Sandra at:


http://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com










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