A tragic love story, tangled in the journey of a pair of earrings. The Earrings of Madame de.. takes place when candlelights fueled late nights, horse-drawn carriages ruled the streets, and dueling pistols were still used to settled arguments.
We meet Madame Louise, trapped in the decadent high society of Paris in the 1800’s. She enjoys the finer things afforded to her, appears trapped in a loveless marriage. She’s married to a General in the French army; a man who’s consumed with keeping up appearances and decorum of his social class. He gives her a pair of earrings as a wedding gift, but they mean so little to her she sells them to a local jeweler like some antique that’s been gathering dust in the attic. She tells the General she lost them, causing an uproar in the community as someone is suspected of stealing them.
In comes the Baron, friends with the General, but not friendly enough to keep from eyeing his wife. Louise catches the Baron’s eye, and courtship begins anew. We find the Baron purchasing the earrings in Constantinople (by way of the General’s down on her luck mistress, no less) as a gift to Louise. Only then does Louise come to appreciate the earrings: a gift from her new lover. The General unravels Louise’s white lie and confronts the Baron. Drama and maybe a little old fashioned duel insues. Suffice it to say, there are no winners.
This film had everything: whimsical, beautifully choreographed ballroom dances. Gorgeous shots of the beach, a few mansions here and there. And did I mention a duel? If two men can’t settle an argument with dueling pistols then I don’t know what can.
This is my first Max Ophüls film, and I’m sorry I waited this long to get into his catalog. I’m a sucker for long camera shots, something that he specialized in. You can see the influences on Kubrick, Scorsese, and Paul Thomas Anderson at work. My favorite scene, though, is a touching moment when Louise is forced to show the Baron out the door. Louise exclaims “I don’t love you…”, trying again to deny her feelings for the Baron, while he stands outside looking away, hearing the words pierce him like a dagger.
The only complaint I have is how time passes in the film. Some of the ballroom dance scenes between the Baron and Louise cut from one to the other quickly, where seemingly no time has passed but the dialogue indicates several days have passed. At one point we learn that the events in the film unfold between a couple of years, when it reality it feels like it’s only been a week or two.