In 1953’s The Earrings of Madame De…, Director Max Ophuls, in his panoramic tracking shots, creates a sumptuous landscape of the Belle Époque era: men discussing politics in smoking rooms, and the women, at their coquettish best, making sure they are desirable at the fancy dress balls in which anyone who matters is present.
The two leads, Charles Boyer as the strict, conservative General Andre, and Danielle Darrieux as Louise, his frivolous aristocratic wife, no longer love each other, and worse, don’t even lust after each other. Both characters have a self-awareness that allows them to step outside of themselves for critical self-examination. Charles Boyer is horrified at his wife’s perception of him. But he’s anchored to a patriarchy that, no matter whom it may hurt, must be preserved. I like the sound of Mr. Boyer’s voice in his native French; it is commanding and musical. He doesn’t so much converse as issue orders.
Ms. Darrieux, behind her manipulative veneer, realizes she’s a terribly vain and spoiled trophy wife. Her only means of escape, physically and spiritually, are with Vittorio De Sica’s refined Baron Donati. It’s interesting to see Vittorio De Sica play a supporting role, after having directed two masterpieces: The Bicycle Thieves (1948) and Umberto D. (1952). Both films used non-professional actors, and defined the Italian Neo Realism style. So, here is Mr. De Sica, acting in a completely different film, a mannered period drama that would also become a classic. An irony to this film is that the Darrieux character Louise had to sell the titular earrings to pay off debts, presumably gambling. Mr. De Sica, in real life, lost alot of money due to his gambling.
Well said! The wife, who is Italian, and I were watching this film and she was somewhat surprised to see De Sica in the film. She speaks French (as well as Italian, English, and Spanish), so unlike the one language American I am, she didn't need the subtitles.
Her parents were big fans of De Sica so she call a lot of his films (as actor and director), growing up but she hadn't seen this film.
We love French cinema so TCM showing this film, as well as focusing on the under exposed, Darrieux was a treat.