The Earrings of Madame de...

It was not without misgivings that the German-born, Jewish director Max Ophüls (1902-57) began work on the penultimate film of his career, The Earrings of Madame de... Adapted from a novel by Louise de Vilmorin (published in 1951, two years before the film's release), the Belle Époque story follows the extramarital goings on of an upper-class Parisian couple. Ophüls wondered if his project -- with its focus on the thwarted love affair between a pampered countess and an Italian diplomat -- was anemic in its conceit compared to other literary works he might have transcribed for the screen. In any event, it was the structure of de Vilmorin's novel that impressed him rather than its contents. In the film, Madame de... (played by Danielle Darrieux) sells a pair of diamond earrings, a gift from her husband (Charles Boyer), to cover a 20,000-franc debt she incurred on the sly. Through a series of coincidences, the earrings find their way back to the couple and in the process become laden with an outsized symbolic power. Ophüls's ability to use a modicum of dialogue to express expansive feelings and his unfailing sense of mise-en-scène -- identified by a camera style that seems almost aquatic in its fluidity -- lift what might otherwise be a foamy indulgence to the rich substance of art. Without derision, one might say that The Earrings of Madame de... represents the apotheosis of the chick flick.

April 17: "In less than three years, both GM and Chrysler would be bankrupt, and a resurgent Ford would wow Wall Street..."

Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch is the winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. James Parker calls this Dickensian coming-of-age novel "an enveloping…

advertisement
Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Poems That Make Grown Men Cry

And women too.  Luminaries from Colin Firth to Nick Cave and Jonathan Franzen chose the poems that bring them to tears, and the result is a stunning collection of poignant verse from writers like Auden, Whitman, Bishop, Larkin, Neruda and many others.  Warning: choking-up hazard.

The King of Pain

Trapped beneath his entertainment system, reality TV mastermind Rick Salter reflects on his life and tries to piece together the events of the previous evening. Seth Kaufman’s romp is an outrageous meditation on pain and entertainment in a deranged world in which the two are often interchangeable.

The Good Inn

Frank Black, frontman for the Pixies, has written a transgressive historical fiction with shades of Thomas Pynchon (focused as it is on the history of explosives and cinematic pornography), all set in a hallucinatory Edwardian Europe.