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The Earrings of Madame de...(1953)
The most cherished work from French master Max Ophuls, The Earrings of Madame de . . . is a profoundly emotional, cinematographically adventurous tale of deceptive opulence and tragic romance. When an aristocratic woman known only as Madame de (the extraordinary Danielle Darrieux) sells a pair of earrings given to her by her husband (Charles Boyer) in order to pay a debt, she sets off a chain reaction of financial and carnal consequences that can end only in despair. Ophuls’s adaptation of Louise de Vilmorin’s incisive fin de siècle novel employs the elegant and precise camera work for which the director is so justly renowned, to ravishing effect.
For more about The Earrings of Madame de... and the The Earrings of Madame de... Blu-ray release, see the The Earrings of Madame de... Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on July 31, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 2.5 out of 5.
Starring: Charles Boyer, Danielle Darrieux, Vittorio De Sica, Jean Debucourt
Director: Max Ophüls
» See full cast & crew
The Earrings of Madame de... Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, July 31, 2013
Max Ophüls' "Madame de..." a.k.a. "The Earrings of Madame de..." (1953) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion. The supplemental features on the disc include an introduction by director Paul Thomas Anderson; video interviews with assistant director Alain Jessua, cowriter Annette Wademant, and assistant decorator Marc Frederix; visual essay by writer Tag Gallagher; archival video interview with novelist Louise de Vilmorin; and an audio commentary by film scholars Susan White and Gaylyn Studlar. The release also arrives with an 80-page illustrated booklet featuring an essay by critic Molly Haskell; an excerpt from costume designer Georges Annenkov's 1962 book Max Ophuls; and Louise de Vilmorin's 1951 source novel Madame de. In French, with optional English subtitles for the main feature. Region-A "locked".
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).
The Earrings of Madame de... Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Max Ophuls' The Earrings of Madame de... arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray release:
"This new digital master was produced from a 2012 restoration undertaken by Gaumont. For the restoration, a transfer was created in 2K resolution on an ARRISCAN film scanner from the original 35mm nitrate negative at Eclair Laboratories in Epinay-sur-Seine, France. The original monaural soundtrack was restored from a safety positive made from the sound negative by L.E. Diapason in Epinay-sur-Seine.
Restoration supervisors: Audrey Birrien/Eclair Laboratories, Epinay-sur-Seine, France; Andre Labbouz/Gaumont, Paris.
Colorist: Bruno Patin/Eclair Laboratories, Epinay-sur-Seine, France."
The technical presentation of this very beautiful classic French film is disappointing. There are traces of moderate to strong denoising corrections throughout the entire film. Unsurprisingly, detail and image depth are often seriously compromised. These corrections are very easy to see during different daylight sequences as well as during various indoor close-ups. The most severe corrections, however, are visible during the daylight footage (see how definition has completely collapsed in screencaptures #11 and 12; also, see how in screencapture #20 the hand of the jeweler is filtered out). Because of the various digital corrections that have been applied, motion stability is also problematic. In select sequences when the camera zooms there are various trailing-like effects. The only relatively good news is that contrast levels remain stable. Also, there are absolutely no debris, damage marks, cuts, warps, or stains to report in this review. All in all, The Earrings of Madame de... could have looked quite spectacular in high-definition because it is easy to see that the actual restoration produced marvelous results (see screencapture #2). However, the current presentation of the film is indeed very frustrating. (Note: This is a Region-A "locked" Blu-ray release. Therefore, you must have a native Region-A or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
The Earrings of Madame de... Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one standard audio track on this Blu-ray disc: French LPCM 1.0. For the record, Criterion have provided optional English subtitles for the main feature.
It is easy to tell that the audio has been optimized as best as possible - depth and clarity are very good. The lovely music heard throughout the film is also well rounded and lush. The dialog is clean, easy to follow, and free of clicks, pops, and distortions. The English translation is very good.
The Earrings of Madame de... Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Earrings of Madame de... Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
My advice to people interested in this upcoming Blu-ray release of Max Ophuls' wonderful The Earrings of Madame de... is this: find a way to rent it first. While the film has been beautifully restored, its transition to Blu-ray is problematic. Simply put, the film does not have the consistent organic look it should have. It is possible that some viewers may not be bothered by the various digital corrections that have been applied to the new transfer, but I had a difficult time enjoying the film.
The Earrings of Madame de... Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Criterion Announces August Titles - May 15, 2013
The Criterion Collection has announced five titles for Blu-ray release in August. On August 6th, the studio will release Max Ophuls' The Earrings of Madame de... (1953). On August 13th, it will release John Frankenheimer's Seconds (1966). On August 20th, it will ...
The Earrings of Madame de... Blu-ray Screenshots
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