Earrings of Madame de..., The (1953)

The Earrings of Madame de... (1953), directed by Max Ophüls.

It begins like a sophisticated, cynical sex farce. French, naturally. The countess has "suitors" but can indulge them only so far. Her husband the general doesn't mind as long as she stays in bounds; he has a mistress for diversion.

Wealthy as madame may be, she needs still more money and pawns her jeweled earrings, claiming they were lost to conceal the act. We figure these are the plot "mcguffin" as we trace their circuitous route in and out of the family several times.

When she falls in love with a diplomat the comedy fades away and we enter the tragic story of a broken marriage. The earrings stop being the plot gimmick and become fraught with meaning, so tainted in the end they are given to the Church as a deodand: a gift to God because it would be improper for anyone to keep them.

I don't remember seeing any of the director's other films, and I particularly wanted to see Danielle Darrieux again, after her screwball performance in The Rage of Paris (1938). "Earrings" was written for her.

Said to be low-budget but the costumes and locations look opulent to me. The main theme reminds me of "It's a Great Big World" from The Harvey Girls (1946).

Criterion Blu-ray. The commentary track with two film scholars wanders into PoMoLitCrit and I bailed.


Darrieux and Charles Boyer were together 17 years earlier in Mayerling: