MADAME DE...

Tragic consequences ensue when a society woman pawns the earrings her husband gave her, in Max Ophuls’ graceful and opulent period drama.

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Introduction

“As Ophuls’s famously restless camera swirls through Madame de… he traces an interior journey, from a world of bright, enchanting surfaces to the dim recesses of a soul.”
Dave Kehr, The New York Times, 2007

Max Ophuls’ La Ronde (1950) follows a chain of amorous liaisons, passing from one lover to the next until the story comes back to where it started. Ever attracted to circular patterns, in his Madame de... the unnamed wife (Danielle Darrieux) of an aristocrat pawns her earrings to pay off her debts. The transaction sets off a chain reaction, as the earrings exchange hands between the pawnbroker, the lady’s husband, her husband’s mistress, and her suitor, implicating each in a web of desire and deceit that leads to tragedy.

Ophuls’ film presents a woman imprisoned by social conventions and a material world of ornate, glittering decor, which the director navigates in sublimely sinuous tracking shots. The American critic Andrew Sarris called Madame de... “the most perfect film ever made”.

Ophuls’ final film, Lola Montès (1955), is the story of a 19th-century circus dancer (Martine Carol) and her affairs in high places.

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