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As they find their way from France to Constantinople to France again, a luxurious pair of earrings lie at the heart of a tragic story of deceit and love in 19th-century Paris. The earrings were once given as a gift to Countess Louise de . . . by her husband, a powerful general. Their union is now cold and distant, and she falls madly in love with Donati, an Italian diplomat.
For more about Madame de... and the Madame de... Blu-ray release, see Madame de... Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on February 25, 2014 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Charles Boyer, Danielle Darrieux, Vittorio De Sica, Jean Debucourt
Director: Max Ophüls
» See full cast & crew
Madame de... Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, February 25, 2014
Max Ophüls' "Madame de..." a.k.a. "The Earrings of Madame de..." (1953) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of French label Gaumont. The supplemental features on the disc include an introduction by Oscar winning director Marcel Ophuls; new documentary film produced by Dominique Maillet; and short video piece with comments from restoration supervisor Audrey Birrien. In French, with optional English and French SDH subtitles for the main feature. Region-Free.
They seem like the perfect couple. The General (Charles Boyer, Gaslight, The Garden of Allah) is a strict but respectful man who likes to be seen with his wife. Louise (Danielle Darrieux, The Young Girls of Rochefort, The Wages of Sin) is a playful and stunningly beautiful woman who enjoys being next to the General. They both know that they look good together and are well aware that they have their admirers. But their private life is disappointing. The General rarely has anything meaningful to share with Louise, while Louise prefers to be alone even when the General is around.
During a trip to Constantinople, Louise meets the charismatic Baron Donati (Vittorio De Sica, Il generale della Rovere, Fast and Sexy). There is an instant spark between them, they can feel it, but they don't have time to talk. Later on, they meet again on the streets of Paris after their carriages collide. At this point Baron Donati is already convinced that fate has a plan for him and Louise. They arrange to meet again at lavish balls and spend plenty of time talking, dancing, and being kind to each other. And the more time they spend together, the more Louise begins to realize that Baron Donati isn't like the rest of the men she has been flirting with.
The high and low points of the affair between Louise and Baron Donati are linked to a pair of beautiful diamond earrings, which we first see in a short sequence in the beginning of the film where Louise secretly tries to sell them because she desperately needs money. These are not ordinary earrings – they are a wedding gift from the General. As they change owners throughout the film the feelings between Louise, Baron Donati, and the General also evolve.
There is a sense of purity in Max Ophuls' adaptation of Louise de Vilmorin's famous novel Madame de that is rarely present in other similarly themed period films. One reason why is the manner in which the camera observes the main characters – the proximity and attention seem appropriate for a documentary feature but the elegance and impressive fluidity are perfect for a lavish epic film. Another reason is the great chemistry between Ophuls and the cast – the emotions on display are never overdone, the exchanges are never overly expressive. The result is a moving, very elegant and completely free of cheap sentimentality romantic film.
The conflicts between the main characters are also structured in a way that does not force us to pick favorites. The motives behind their decisions to frequently mislead each other or utter half-truths when they discuss their feelings are never meant to hurt the opposing side. In the environment these characters exist, there is a certain code they ought to respect, and when they do so we see and understand how incredibly difficult it is for all of them (including the seemingly cold General) to be honest with each other.
Darrieux, De Sica, and Boyer are perfect together. There is a certain rhythm and balance their performances share that makes them incredibly easy to enjoy.
The Earrings of Madame de… was lensed by the great French cinematographer Christian Matras. Ophuls and Matras also collaborated on the equally stylish and elegant films La Ronde, Le Plaisir, and Lola Montès. In 1967, Matras also lensed De Sica's comedy Woman Times Seven.
Note: In 1955, The Earrings of Madame de… was nominated for Oscar Award for Best Costume Design, Black-and-White (Georges Annenkov and Rosine Delamare).
Madame de... Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.37:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Max Ophuls' The Earrings of Madame de... arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of French label Gaumont.
Gaumont's high-definition transfer is not identical to the one Criterion used for their Blu-ray release of this very beautiful classic French film. Detail and image depth are clearly superior on Gaumont's release. This is easy to see during daylight panoramic shots and during select indoor shots with plenty of light. (You can compare screencapture #11 with screencapture # 11 from our review of the Criterion release to see exactly what type of improvements are present). Traces of some extremely light noise corrections, however, remain, though none of them are problematic. Contrast levels are stable. Also, there are no traces of compromising sharpening corrections. This being said, while viewing the film I noticed traces of light chroma noise (see screencaptures #3 and #17). The most obvious ones appear during the beach sequence at the end of the film. Additionally, there is an obvious discrepancy between the black/gray settings when one compares the Gaumont release with the Criterion release. In this case, considering the above mentioned traces of light chroma noise, it is clear that Gaumont's high-definition transfer could have been encoded better. Finally, there are no serious stability issues to report in this review. Also, there are no large debris, cuts, damage marks, stains, or scratches. (Note: This is a Region-Free Blu-ray release. Therefore, you will be able to play it on your PS3 or SA regardless of your geographical location. For the record, there is no problematic PAL or 1080/50i content preceding the disc's main menu).
Madame de... Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one standard audio track on this Blu-ray release: French DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. For the record, Gaumont have provided optional English and French SDH subtitles for the main feature.
Dynamic intensity is limited, but it is obvious that the film's original sound design is fairly modest. Clarity and depth are very good and the dialog is free of hiss, crackle, and pops. The music is well balanced, though the range of nuanced dynamics is small. The English translation is excellent.
Madame de... Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Madame de... Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Gaumont's new Blu-ray release of Max Ophuls' Madame de... isn't flawless, but currently it is clearly the best one on the market. Fans of the film should consider picking up Criterion's Blu-ray release of the film as well because none of the supplemental features on Gaumont's release are English-friendly. RECOMMENDED.
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