Film Review: Madame de…

Madame de...Madame de… is a finely produced drama. Max Ophüls’ flare for direction and storytelling shines brightly.

In late nineteenth-century Paris, Louise, the wife of a general, sells the earrings her husband bought for her as a wedding gift. Needing money to pay off her debts, Louise tells her husband that the earrings have been lost and thinks that is the end of the matter. However, the earrings have a habit of reappearing in her life…

Madame de… is a great film. The narrative is engaging, the characters are interesting, and it is beautifully shot. Max Ophüls’ film is well paced. The story unfolds in a manner which allows for character development, yet never feels slack. What keeps viewers engaged is the unpredictability of the plot. It is not really clear how the story will go, and ultimately what the fate of Louise and her earrings shall be.

The main characters in Madame de… are three dimensional. Louise is firstly depicted as rather frivolous, but her character is given space to develop over the course of the film. Her husband the general is a complex but fascinating antagonist. There are shades of grey to Madame de… that would be most welcome in other films.

Set more than around fifty years before the film was made in 1953, Madame de… looks the part of a period drama. Costumes are attractive, as are the sets which hold such grandiose events. Ophüls keeps the camera fluid in the dance sequences, encapsulating the sense of movement both literally and metaphorically. Danielle Darrieux delivers a solid performance as Louise, while Charles Boyer is aptly cast as her husband. Darrieux has good chemistry with Vittorio De Sica’s Baron.

Anyone who has not encountered Madame de… are urged to catch it on its limited release.

Madame de… is being screened at the BFI Southbank and selected venues across the country from 15th February 2013.

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