The Earrings of Madame de...

April 16, 2009

Even if you aren't a fan of foreign films, you will LOVE "The Earrings of Madame de..."

I rented it from Netflix last week, watched it for the first time two days ago, and I'm already itching to watch it again. If you have Netflix, I really recommend renting it instead of buying it. It's a Criterion Collection movie, so it's very pricey to buy -- although since I like it so much now, I may end up just purchasing it eventually anyway!

"The Earrings of Madame de.. is a French film that stars Danielle Darrieux, Charles Boyer and Vittorio de Sica, and it is directed by the inimitable Max Ophuls. You can probably guess what the basic story is about, what with two men and one woman getting top billing--- yes, it is a love triangle. This scenario has been re-hashed in hundreds of films, but in Earrings, it is as if the concept was totally born anew.

As you probably know, Charles Boyer is one of my very favorite actors, and so I was incredibly excited when I rented this-- there aren't many Boyer movies left that I haven't seen. Once again, he did not let me down. His role is relatively small, and in anyone else's hands it could have been forgettable and uninspiring. But Charles Boyer fills this character with life, hidden motivations and deep feeling.

But as much as I adore Charles Boyer, this film belongs to Danielle Darrieux. It is actually the first film I've seen her in (I know! I'm ashamed!) Her performance is absolutely breathtaking. I don't even know how to really describe her acting; but I'll try to explain one thing that really impressed me. At a certain point in the film, her character is feeling very empty and confused. Her face is awash with emptiness; you can see how hollow her face looks... everywhere except for her eyes. It's amazing how her eyes have so much emotion and depth when she could simultaneously make the rest of her face look so blank.

In fact, I think the whole film could be described in the same way as Danielle Darrieux's acting-- it has a very hollow, empty look about it. (In this scene that I drew, Danielle is walking along the beach in a shroud-like outfit and you can almost taste the emptiness in the air) But if you watch closely, this film is packed with subtle emotion and incredibly well-developed characters.


Lolita of the Classics said...

I instantly feel the urge to see this film NOW!

Nicole Newcomb said...

Looking forward to seeing it soon. :) Cool sketch.

Classic Maiden said...

I'm so glad you finally got the chance of seeing it :D. I remember you mentioned the interest in seeing it back in February, when I reviewed it ( ) after I myself, finally had the chance of seeing it.

I'm so glad you enjoyed it :)

Best wishes,

Cullen Gallagher said...

I'm a HUGE Ophuls fan. My favs are "Caught" with Barbara Bel Geddes, Robert Ryan and James Mason and "The Reckeless Moment" with Joan Bennett and James Mason. "Le Plaisir" and "La Ronde" are also wonderful, as is.... Ok ok, you get the point.

FYI, "Madame de..." is playing this weekend at IFC Center. And if you haven't seen it in 35mm on the big screen, you're missing out.

Richard Hourula said...

Terrific film. Just saw it myself for the first time a few months ago. It's my favorite Ophuls film. You make a good point about the "hollow..empty" look to the film. Strange that it that way its very deep.

Unknown said...

Lolita- see it! give in to the urge!!!

Nicole- you have to watch it! It's fantastic!

Sebina- Thanks for your review :) I'm so glad I finally saw it.

Cullen- Me too! Darn, I need to get into NYC more often... Most of the classes I've been taking have been online, but I'm doing two in the city next semester, so hopefully I'll actually be around to catch things like that! Although I have a feeling 90% of my free time in the city will be spent at the Paley Centery (former Museum of TV & Radio) Every time I get a chance to go to New York, it's the first place I go. There's a Jack Benny episode with Barbara Stanwyck where they parody Gaslight that I watch as one of my choices every single time I go. I'm so pathetic :)

Richard- Isn't it wonderful? It seems so contradictory, but it really is a deep hollow film!