There are some movies that are so perfect, so exquisitely beautiful, so effortlessly elegant, they're almost painful. Like watching an overwhelmingly enchanting dancer — their beauty cracks something inside of you, inspiring/torturing you to tears or even a brief spurt of madness. Nothing is that lovely. And indeed, nothing is. The pain of manipulating those graceful muscles, and in the case of Max Ophüls' The Earrings of Madame de..., the pain of that shambolic muscle called the heart, reveals what threatens to stain one's resplendently spotless satin and silk — blood-red, human deception and guilt.
Glittering surfaces are the thing in the world of Ophüls' late 19th century France in which Comtesse Louise de... (Danielle Darrieux), the stunning, spoiled wife of the similarly stunning and wealthy Général André de... (Charles Boyer), who makes a decision with dire and even morbidly comical consequences: She secretly sells a pair of earrings, a wedding present from her husband, to pay off debts.
What proceeds is the Ophüls' intended carousal of uncertainties, the earrings moving from one wooden-cheval climber to the other, notably the wife's Italian lover, Baron Donati (Vittorio De Sica), cursing these elegant creatures with looming heartbreak. Ophüls fills every frame with such opulence — mirrored reflections, dizzyingly perfected montages and those famously inspired tracking shots that are so graceful, so seamless that, again, they feel as if they could cut you open. It hurts. But oh how I love the pain.