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.
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Audio: French 1.0 PCM (Mono)
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 1 Hr. 40 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-raybook-like cardboard case with slipcover
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 08/06/2013
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.
The Production Rating: 5/5
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.
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.
Video Rating: 4.5/5 3D Rating: NA
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.
Audio Rating: 4/5
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.
Special Features Rating: 4.5/5
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.
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.
Overall Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewed By: Matt Hough
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