Louise (Danielle Darrieux) is a General’s wife who lives a lifestyle she cannot afford. We begin the film with her trying to decide which of her possessions she should sell to pay off her debts, and she opts for a pair of earrings her husband (Charles Boyer) bought her as a wedding gift. She sells them to the jeweller he originally bought them from, but to prevent her husband from knowing Louise pretends they have been lost or stolen. When the news of the supposed theft hits the jeweller, he soon returns the earrings to the General to save his own reputation, which sets in motion a long and eventful series of journeys, transactions and ludicrous coincidences that these earrings will take.
Madame De…, also known as The Earrings of Madame De…, was nominated for me to watch by Nick Rehak of French Toast Sunday, but I’ve also heard many good things about it from JD Duran, who regularly brings it up on his Insession Film podcast, so there was a lot of hype for the film to live up to. Whilst I enjoyed the film a great deal, it didn’t quite live up to my expectations, however it was better than a film about the tribulations of a pair of earrings has any right to be.
I was engrossed and intrigued throughout, but it didn’t stop the story from being farcical in terms of just what happens to these earrings. I won’t go into spoilers, because I do recommend that this film be seen, but suffice to say this is the first example I’ve come across of a tragic farce, in that hilariously ludicrous events unfold, but regarding sombre and depressing results.
There’s a hefty dose of romance, courtesy of the love triangle that unfolds between the married couple and a potential new suitor for the wife in the form of an Italian Baron (Vittorio De Sica), however little of this romance felt justified. I understood the cold and distant figure of the General causing his wife to consider looking elsewhere, but she and the Baron fall in love without ever really earning it. It seems they dance together a few times – which admittedly is shown through a delightful montage that seamlessly blends one outfit and location into another – and it is the act of spending so much time in close proximity to one another whilst they spin in circles in time to the music that causes them to fall into the deepest of loves for each other. Also, Louise is depicted as the weakest and frailest of women, fainting at the slightest inconvenience and swooning so much that her husband tells people not to worry, she does it all the time.
All that being said, this is still an intricate and well played story, told with some interesting flourishes, such as a torn up letter becoming snow blowing in the wind. Also the brief snippets of comedy were appreciated, such as the opera doormen whose sole job is to hold a door open when the aristocracy wish to enter, but which is made all the more difficult by how frequently the General wishes to use the doors at unexpected moments. One more minor quibble I had was that a great deal is made about how we never learn Louise’s surname. Given that the title of the film blanks it out, and on several occasions her written name is obscured, or the dialogue highlights that we don’t know her full name, I never really understood the significance. In Hitchcock’s Rebecca it makes sense for the new Mrs. De Winter to be nameless, because she is so unimportant compared to the woman whose shadow she cannot hope to escape, but here it just feels odd, especially given we know her first name is Louise.
Choose Film 7/10