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    The Earrings of Madame de... Blu-ray Review

    Blu-ray Criterion

    Jul 30 2013 01:22 PM | Matt Hough in DVD & Blu-ray Reviews
    Max Ophuls’ tragic melodrama of three unhappy souls involved in a hopeless love triangle bitterly sighs on the screen as The Earrings of Madame de…. Mournful and yet with moments of real twinkle and spirit and with exquisite direction featuring matchless décor and costumes, The Earrings of Madame de… shows one of France’s master craftsmen near his zenith in his penultimate film offering.

    Title Info:

    • Studio: Criterion
    • Distributed By: N/A
    • Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
    • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
    • Audio: French 1.0 PCM (Mono)
    • Subtitles: English
    • Rating: Not Rated
    • Run Time: 1 Hr. 40 Min.
    • Package Includes: Blu-ray
    • Case Type: book-like cardboard case with slipcover
    • Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
    • Region: A
    • Release Date: 08/06/2013
    • MSRP: $39.95

    The Production Rating: 5/5

    Comtesse Louise de… (Danielle Darrieux) is a spoiled, frivolous woman who sells an expensive pair of earrings (a wedding gift from her husband) back to the jeweler who crafted them in order to get money to pay some crushing debts she’s rung up with her extravagance. Unknown to her, the jeweler brings the earrings to the attention of the husband (Charles Boyer) who buys them back and gives them to his mistress (Lia Di Leo). She in turn pawns them for gambling money, and they’re then bought by Baron Fabrizio Donati (Vittorio De Sica) who quite coincidentally begins a clandestine affair with Comtesse Louise and eventually presents the earrings as a gift to her! That isn’t the end of the journey for those wonderful jewels, but it’s all it takes for secrets to be exposed and the lives of the three people most involved with the cursed jewelry to be brought to the breaking point.

    Ophuls’ directing of the camera in this film is some of the busiest and most involving in almost any movie one can think of. It quickly establishes the superficial lavishness and vanity of Louise as it pours over her jewels, clothes, and furs in the film’s opening shots and goes on from there to punctuate the rapid rise and unhappy fall of the love affair amid the hurried comings and goings of many of the film‘s participants. Two other sequences involving that masterful camerawork stand out: a wonderfully creative and cinematically impressive montage of waltzes between Louise and Fabrizio as their love blossoms over time and an incredibly evocative shot of a torn love letter hurled out of the window of a moving train melding into dropping snowflakes on the countryside. Added to that is the lilting music of Oscar Straus and Georges van Parys which mirrors both the joys and heartbreaks contained in the picture.

    The three leading characters are played with startling grace and élan. Charles Boyer is reserved and in control as the cuckolded general, ironic in his passionless rage about his wife’s affair even though he has a mistress of his own. Danielle Darrieux is likewise mostly cool rather than shamelessly ardent and desperate as the blossoms of her affair begin to wither in front of her eyes (though she achieves her most passionate moments with her lover and not at all with her husband with whom she shares only a distant, nonchalant fondness). Vittorio De Sica, as well known as an actor in many films as he is a director, has looks and charm to spare as the eager baron. Credit goes to all three actors for not forcing purple passions on these roles but rather conducting themselves with the decorum appropriate for their upper class stations. Jean Debucourt as the sycophantic jeweler elicits a fair quota of laughs as he strives to make every franc possible from this one pair of earrings.

    Previous love triangles found in books and films like Madame Bovary and Anna Karenina easily come to mind as one watches in this movie the lovers struggle in their own sticky webs of deceit. The Earrings of Madame de… may not quite reach the heights and depths of tragic inevitability of those other masterpieces, but in its own somewhat smaller way, it can match them in viewer involvement and the movie’s ultimate chilling effect.

    Video Rating: 4.5/5 3D Rating: NA

    The film is presented in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio and is offered in 1080p resolution using the AVC codec. The image is pleasantly sharp and appealing with enough detail in the presentation to appreciate the stunning decors and costumes (even though the film was made on a shoestring budget). The grayscale doesn’t feature the deepest possible black levels, but whites are crisp and appealing, and overall the image has consistent contrast and no age-related artifacts. (Restored in 2012, the previous DVD release had some hairs and scratches, but they aren’t present here.) The film has been divided into 21 chapters.

    Audio Rating: 4/5

    The PCM 1.0 (1.1 Mbps) sound mix offers an improved audio experience from the previous DVD release which had some hiss present. This track is free of age-related artifacts, and while the dialogue was post-synched and thus has that airless quality that’s something distracting, the sound effects and that beautiful Oscar Straus music are mixed carefully with the dialogue so that each works in complete harmony with the other.

    Special Features: 4.5/5

    Audio Commentary: film scholars Susan White and Gaylyn Studlar offer a lively discussion of the film, and while there is occasionally more description of on-screen events than there should be, it’s always followed by a literate analysis of the techniques on display and the symbolic meanings of what’s on the screen.

    Paul Thomas Anderson Appreciation (14:26, HD): the director skips through the film offering observations and analyses of scenes that particularly appeal to him. It’s called an “introduction” on the disc, but it reveals major spoilers about the story and shouldn’t be watched by first timers to the movie until afterwards.

    Production Personnel Interviews (HD): separate interviews are offered with three individuals who worked on the movie and share memories of the experience: assistant director Alain Jessua (25:29 filmed in 2005) and assistant set decorator Marc Frédérix (8:11 filmed in 1989) and co-screenwriter Annette Wademant (6:49 filmed in 1989).

    Video Analysis (17:22, HD): film historian Tag Gallagher offers views on several significant sequences in the film including a series of montages, an examination on the voids of space and time that Ophuls used, and a comparison of this film to other Ophuls’ works.

    Louise de Vilmorin Interview (4:44, HD): the original novelist basically trashes what Ophuls did with her novel on the screen. The interview was filmed in 1965, but it’s unusual to find someone so negative about one of the world’s most celebrated films.

    76-Page Booklet : contains the chapter listing, cast and crew lists, a rich selection of stills from the movie, a celebration of its greatness by critic Molly Haskell, costume designer Georges Annenkov lovely remembrances of working on the film, and the original Louise de Vilmorin novella on which the film is based.

    Timeline: can be pulled up from the menu or by pushing the red button on the remote. It shows you your progress on the disc, the title of the chapter you’re now in, and index markers for the commentary that goes along with the film, all of which can be switched on the fly. Additionally, two other buttons on the remote can place or remove bookmarks if you decide to stop viewing before reaching the end of the film or want to mark specific places for later reference.

    Overall Rating: 4.5/5

    Another of the gems from the latter part of the career of the great filmmaker Max Ophuls, The Earrings of Madame de… on Blu-ray with its sparkling restoration looking the finest it has ever looked on home video comes highly recommended.

    Reviewed by: Matt Hough
    Support HTF when you buy this title:


    Some who have seen this have called it scrubbed of grain and texture, did you notice anything like that?

    Some who have seen this have called it scrubbed of grain and texture, did you notice anything like that?


    No, I didn't, but maybe my 58" screen and my distance from it prevented me from noticing it. If I have time today, I'll put it on again and get closer.

    Hi, Matt!


    Enjoyed your review, but wondered if you could comment on the video anomolies discussed in the review posted on www.blu-ray.com as quoted below? Here's the direct link to the review so you can access the specifically-mentioned screenshots: http://www.blu-ray.c...83/#Screenshots






    "The technical presentation of this very beautiful classic French film is disappointing. There are traces of moderate to strong denoising corrections throughout the entire film. Unsurprisingly, detail and image depth are often seriously compromised. These corrections are very easy to see during different daylight sequences as well as during various indoor close-ups. The most severe corrections, however, are visible during the daylight footage (see how definition has completely collapsed in screencaptures #11 and 12; also, see how in screencapture #20 the hand of the jeweler is filtered out). Because of the various digital corrections that have been applied, motion stability is also problematic. In select sequences when the camera zooms there are various trailing-like effects. The only relatively good news is that contrast levels remain stable. Also, there are absolutely no debris, damage marks, cuts, warps, or stains to report in this review. All in all, The Earrings of Madame de... could have looked quite spectacular in high-definition because it is easy to see that the actual restoration produced marvelous results (see screencapture #2). However, the current presentation of the film is indeed very frustrating."

    Unless one is peering at details, this will look quite nice on a 58" panel, and the problem shots may not even register as highly problematic.



    Good to know, assuming the same holds true at 60" ;)

    I took another look at about 30 minutes of selected scenes this afternoon looking especially for close-ups to examine. Of course, Ophuls didn't use many close-ups in this movie, but I got closer to the screen and looked hard.


    There probably is some DNR applied to this restoration transfer (don't many Blu-rays have some DNR?), but it's not heavy enough to obscure details in clothes or facial features, and it definitely is not the kind of heavy smearing and gross use of brightness and contrast that makes for a problematic viewing experience.


    I'll stand by my rating at least on my equipment.



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    Dvd Criterion


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