Friday, May 6, 2011
The Earrings of Madame de...
Today's movie was The Earrings of Madame de... directed by Max Ophuls in 1953. I really liked it, it was shot really well, with so many long scenes (which are such a feat). I liked the plot as well, it was different than I thought it would be. I had some vague impression that it would be about a pair of earrings be passed from woman to woman, thus the "Madame de..." part of the title. However, it's more about how one pair of earrings kept coming back to one woman.
The last name of the main character, Louisa, is always a mystery to us. She is cut off when she tries to say it, and her name on various dinner cards is always blocked by something. She is married to a general, but she is in debt. She sells a pair of earrings that her husband gave her, and pretends that she lost them. The jeweler tells her husband what she did, and he buys them back to give to his mistress. Of course, his mistress sells them, and they are bought by Louisa's lover, the Baron. Louisa tries to pretend that she found the earrings again, but of course, at this point, her lies are becoming more transparent.
Something that I noticed in this film, and that Ebert later points out, is that there is a sort of acceptance that people will have affairs. Louisa's husband is more concerned that it was wrong of her to take the earrings from the Baron than that she had an affair. I thought this was sort of interesting - in our society, affairs are pretty taboo. It's the stuff that lands you on either Maury or Dr. Phil. It's certainly not accepted, much less expected. But here, it is a bit expected. There isn't much drama over the affairs, but the lying about the earrings. I sort of liked this different aspect of the movie. It seemed interesting, and I appreciated being able to see relationships, however dysfunctional, in a new way.
The look of the whole movie is great as well. Long shots are often present, which are so impressive. Think of how many takes might occur in normal filmmaking, just to get a short insert scene. Imagine having to shoot a 10 minute long scene continually. You cannot cut away to a closeup of something else because your actress flubbed her line. You have to just start over. Having worked on film sets, and having done only moderately long shots, I really respect anyone who has the patience and skill to get them. The sets are really cool, as well. Ebert writes of the cinematography, "He likes to show his characters surrounded by, even drowning in, their milieu. Interior spaces are crowded with possessions. Their bodies are adorned with gowns, uniforms, jewelry, decorations. Ophuls likes to shoot past foreground objects, or through windows, to show the characters contained by possessions" (Great Movies II, 136). It's really interesting to see how he uses space and objects to create a really interesting, lush world for the characters. It feels really different because of how he shot everything, and I love that. It's interesting how much meaning he puts on objects. The earrings are an annoyance, and a cherished gift, at the same time.
Anyway, I really need to sit back and...experience my headache. :( I know it seems lame that I'm always whining about them, but I get really bad migraines and blah, sometimes they just really knock me out. The medication I take for them makes me a little drowsy as well, so I try to keep my posts short when I take anything to try to cut back on the amount of meh writing that could happen.
I really loved this movie, and I hope you check it out! I sort of like farce, and find it sort of funny, and I liked it here, as well. I loved unique way that it was shot and filmed, the lavish costumes and sparkling jewels. It's streaming on Netflix and Hulu, so it's pretty easy to watch this great, short film. Let me know if you check it out!
Ebert's Great Movie Essay on The Earrings of Madame de...
There's not a trailer on YouTbe, so here's the opening scene.