Recently restored and reissued, Madame de... is a visually stunning piece of cinema that captures an age – fin-de-siècle Paris – that has long since vanished. Louise, the Madame de... of the title (we are never told her full name) is married to a general, André, and lives in a gilded cage of refinement and privilege.
The story turns
neatly, wittily and sometimes darkly, around a pair of diamond earrings. Faced
with debts, Madame sells the
jewels – a gift from her husband following their wedding day – and claims they
were stolen. Their unexpected passage from that point on – into the hands of
lovers, rivals and relatives of their original owner – anchors a tale of
secrets, temptation, glamour and tragedy.
Although it received only a modest reception upon its release in 1953, Max
Ophüls' film was later acclaimed as a masterpiece of 1950s French cinema, and
with justification. The beautiful camerawork includes long tracking shots and a
stunning montage scene of Louise dancing with Donati, an Italian diplomat with
whom she has fallen madly in love.
An exemplary piece of dramatic cinema – if you like classics, you must see this.
The re-release on a limited number of cinema screens in the UK may lead to the film being made available on DVD - I will keep you updated. US cinephiles can buy a copy here. It is also available to rent or own on iTunes (US only).