The Earrings of Madame de . . .

A narcissistic countess, whom we shall call Madame de . . . (Danielle Darrieux), is given a pair of earrings by her husband (Charles Boyer). When she sells them to pay off debts, her husband buys them back to give to his mistress who, in her turn, sells the earrings, and they wind up in the hands of a diplomat (Vittorio De Sica) on his way to France. He will give them as a gift to his lover, a certain Madame de . . . . This story of a life compromised by a pair of earrings is, for many, Ophuls's masterpiece; Pauline Kael had one word for it: “Perfection.” Ophuls, his camera set to the tempo of a waltz, lifts a deceptively lavish screen to expose the hypocrisies of married love and the bitter aftertaste of romance. Boyer was never better than as the husband lost to a love he understands all too well, and Darrieux embodies the Belle Époque woman, the passionate waste of a soul. Eleven years and a century later, she will be Monica Vitti in Red Desert.

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