Sunday, October 25, 2015

255. Madame de... (1953)

Running Time: 100 minutes
Directed By: Max Ophuls
Written By: Marcel Achard, Max Ophuls, Annette Wademant, from the novel Madame de by Louise de Vilmorin
Main Cast:Danielle Darrieux, Charles Boyer, Vittorio De Sica, Jean Debucourt, Jean Galland


I always usually try to open with something witty or informational as my first paragraph, however, after 900 of these things, I'm nearly wrung out of wit, so let's just get down to it, shall we?

Without a pair of diamond earrings, there would be no movie. We open on a pair of hands, clad in long white gloves - a woman going through her possessions, citing that she needs to find something to sell; for what reason, we don't know yet. She finally settles on a pair of diamond earrings that were given to her by her husband, on their wedding day. The woman is Madame de... (Darrieux) - who's name we never fully learn and she settles on the earrings only because she'll feel they'll garner the most cash. The next scene sees Madame de... arriving at the jewelers and selling the earrings. Coincidentally, it is the same jeweler whom her husband bought them from. I guess I should mention that the Madame is married to General Andre de...(something), who, in addition to being a General of the French military, is also a well respected count. Anyway...back to the diamonds! Later that night, while at the opera, Madame feigns losing the earrings, so that she'll have an excuse if ever she's asked about them. The General looks for them, but to (of course) no avail. The next morning, the General takes an ad out in the paper, citing that a pair of diamond earrings have been stolen. The jeweler, not wanting to be caught with "stolen" jewels, decides to pay a visit to the General, telling him how he got them and ultimately, selling them back to him. The General, in turn, gives the earrings to his mistress, who, during an unsuccessful night of gambling in Constantinople, sells the diamonds in order to keep betting. It is in Constantinople that the earrings are discovered and purchased by Baron Fabrizio Donati (De Sica), who eventually meets and falls in love with Madame de... Oh it's a scene, man!


Before writing the review for Madame de..., I had to go back and see what films of Max Ophuls I'd already seen/reviewed. The only thing I knew was that none of them had made any of my TOP 20 lists, only really recalling the name Max Ophuls, but none of the pictures. As it turned out, Ophuls directed three films from THE BOOK that I BARELY remember: The Sins of Lola Montes, The Reckless Moment and Letter from an Unknown Woman. In fact, I just took a respite (just now) to read a bit of my Letter from an Unknown Woman review and while I'm really dissecting the picture, asking rhetorical questions and the whole nine yards, my memory just isn't jogging one iota. Anyway, it can't bode well for what I thought of those other three Ophuls affairs, which means I'm quite confident in calling Madame de... his best from THE BOOK. We'll see if it stands the test of time, but, while I didn't love this or anything, I certainly liked it well enough to be comfortable in calling it the best of something.

It was at about the one hour mark, when I said to myself, "You know, self, I think this would've worked far better as a short film". I must say, I was really enjoying everything that was happening in the first half hour. All the little coincidences that were taking place in order to get the earrings back into the hands of Madame de... (because you just knew she'd get them back) - I just love shit like that. Then we get into the love story between her and the Baron and my God how this film drags. The film spends a good forty minutes or so, with the Baron and the Madame just swooning over each other - "tell me you love me", "No, I don't love you, I don't love you", "Oh, it drives me wild when you say you DON'T love me" - and it's a long forty minutes. But then we get into the home stretch and some more happenstances and it all gets fun again. Then I realized, "Holy crap, this last chunk wouldn't have been near as powerful, if not for all the groundwork that is laid out for us in that slow, plodding, middle portion".

All in all, if you can get through the middle portion, which is a lot like a lake of quicksand, then it's smooth sailing in the first and third pieces. It really is a fantastic love story and it's a French film from the 50s, so you know the performances are going to be top notch. Hey, I was pretty stoked to get a look at Vittorio De Sica in action. I'm not even sure I'd seen pictures of him prior to this and somehow I thought the man that directed Umberto D., would look just as old and pitiful, but De Sica was a stallion in his day! Not the best thing I've seen all season - not even close, but it's probably the best thing I've seen in the last week and a breath of fresh air after the horrendous day at the movies I suffered through yesterday.

RATING: 6.5/10  Had that middle portion been spruced up a bit, I could've gotten WAY more into this and inched it into '7' territory, but you take what you can get.


October 25, 2015  7:31pm


  1. You say elsewhere (words to the effect) that you seem to have left a lot of so-so stuff till last ..
    Well, this was .. OK. I enjoyed it, but not wild about it by any means. Perhaps I was disappointed .. I saw it after 'Letter from an Unknown Woman'.. which I liked, and was expecting more of the same ...

    1. See I barely remember Letter from an Unknown Woman...I guess that doesn't say much for it.


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