The Essential Movie Library #88: Madame de… (1953)

The web of deceit becomes indistinguishable from the lattice of desire
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Proof that‚ÄĒas with The Third Man (Essential Movie Library #4), Tokyo Story¬†(Essential Movie Library #17), and The Shop Around the Corner (Essential Movie¬†Library #19)‚ÄĒgreatness and perfection can sometimes be the same. Director Max¬†Oph√ľls was German born, and like a lot of Jewish European filmmakers in the¬†early 1930s, he sensed what was up once the Third Reich rolled into town. He spent¬†the ‚Äė40s in a Hollywood that mostly ignored him before finally recruiting him for¬†crime pictures like Caught, which understood Howard Hughes was nothing if not a¬†noir character, and Letter From an Unknown Woman, which understood melodrama¬†is nothing if not tongue-tied opera. Finally in France in the ‚Äė50s his sensibility found¬†the home where it always belonged and the moment for which it always yearned,¬†when Oph√ľls bid for immortality with La Ronde, Lola Montes, and Madame de‚Ķ.

Like Shop Around the Corner‚Äôs Ernst Lubitsch, Oph√ľls built a whole aesthetic‚ÄĒthat included both a satiric eye and compassionate affection for the follies that turn fatal¬†and social rituals rendered as tragic as they are absurd‚ÄĒout of grace notes. The web¬†of deceit becomes indistinguishable from the lattice of desire, the heart abhorring a¬†vacuum as much as nature does, when a passion that‚Äôs originally meaningless fills¬†empty aristocratic lives to overflow and overtakes all its participants. Through it¬†all Oph√ľls‚Äôs cinematic gaze waltzes on, as glittering as the earrings with which the¬†ultimately devastated, love-scorched madame played by Danielle Darrieux sets in¬†motion a game whose rules are less forgiving to women than so-called gentlemen and¬†their bankrupt notions of honor.

The Essential Movie Library #87: The Long Goodbye
The Essential Movie Library #86: Kiss Me Deadly
The Essential Movie Library #85: The Last of the Mohicans
The Essential Movie Library #84: La Belle Noiseuse
The Essential Movie Library #83: Goldfinger / GoldenEye / Skyfall
The Essential Movie Library #82: The Bourne Trilogy
The Essential Movie Library #81: Zero Dark Thirty
The Essential Movie Library #80: A Place in the Sun
The Essential Movie Library #79: Boogie Nights
The Essential Movie Library #78:¬† Le Samoura√Į
The Essential Movie Library #77: The Wild Bunch
The Essential Movie Library #76: Barton Fink
The Essential Movie Library #75: The Spirit of the Beehive
The Essential Movie Library #74: Sexy Beast
The Essential Movie Library #73: Groundhog Day
The Essential Movie Library #72: Rear Window
The Essential Movie Library #71: The 400 Blows
The Essential Movie Library #70: Blue Velvet
The Essential Movie Library #69: Dr. Strangelove
The Essential Movie Library #68: The Bicycle Thieves
The Essential Movie Library #67: Pulp Fiction
The Essential Movie Library #66: Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!
The Essential Movie Library #65: Caché
The Essential Movie Library #64: A Hard Day’s Night
The Essential Movie Library #63: The Searchers
The Essential Movie Library #62: The Conformist
The Essential Movie Library #61: Bonnie & Clyde
The Essential Movie Library #60: Sweet Smell of Success
The Essential Movie Library #59: Melancholia
The Essential Movie Library #58: La Dolce Vita
The Essential Movie Library #57: Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid
The Essential Movie Library #56: Contempt
The Essential Movie Library #55: Sunset Boulevard
The Essential Movie Library #54: Metropolis
The Essential Movie Library #53: In A Lonely Place
The Essential Movie Library #52: Talk to Her
The Essential Movie LIbrary #51: To Be or Not To Be
The Essential Movie Library #50: The Battle of Algiers
The Essential Movie Library #49: Notorious
The Essential Movie Library #48: Wings of Desire
The Essential Movie Library #47: L’Avventura
The Essential Movie Library #46: Malcolm X
The Essential Movie Library #45: In the Mood for Love / 2046
The Essential Movie Library #44: Touch of Evil
The Essential Movie Library #43: Once Upon A Time in the West
The Essential Movie Library #42: Belle de Jour
The Essential Movie Library #41: Apocalypse No
The Essential Movie Library #40: Out of the Past
The Essential Movie Library #39: Branded to Kill
The Essential Movie Library #38: The General
The Essential Movie Library #37: Lord of the Rings
The Essential Movie Library #36: Aguirre, the Wrath of God
The Essential Movie Library #35: Raging Bull
The Essential Movie Library #34: The Rules of the Game
The Essential Movie Library #33: Chinatown
The Essential Movie Library #32: Stalker
The Essential Movie Library #31: Weekend
The Essential Movie Library #30: Some Like It Hot
The Essential Movie Library #29: Red River
The Essential Movie Library #28: The Passenger
The Essential Movie Library #27: Singin’ in the Rain
The Essential Movie Library #26: Heat
The Essential Movie Library #25: L’Atalante
The Essential Movie Library #24: Sunrise
The Essential Movie Library #23: His Girl Friday
The Essential Movie Library #22: Black Narcissus
The Essential Movie Library #21: Blade Runner
The Essential Movie Library #20: Persona
The Essential Movie Library #19: The Shop Around the Corner
The Essential Movie Library #18: Lost Highway
The Essential Movie Library #17: Tokyo Story
The Essential Movie Library #16: 8 1/2
The Essential Movie Library #15: City Lights
The Essential Movie Library #14: Seven Samurai
The Essential Movie Library #13: Lawrence of Arabia
The Essential Movie Library #12: Citizen Kane
The Essential Movie Library #11: Jules and Jim
The Essential Movie Library #10: My Darling Clementine
The Essential Movie Library #9: Double Indemnity
The Essential Movie Library #8: That Obscure Object of Desire
The Essential Movie Library #7: 2001: A Space Odyssey
The Essential Movie Library #6: Casablanca
The Essential Movie Library #5: The Lady Eve
The Essential Movie Library #4: The Third Man
The Essential Movie Library #3: The Passion of Joan of Arc
The Essential Movie Library #2: Vertigo
The Essential Movie Library #1: The Godfather Trilogy