THE EARRINGS OF MADAME DE... (Kolczyki Madame de...)
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What fascinated Max Ophüls in Madame de..., a short novel by Louise de Vilmorin, was not so much the storyline, but the construction of the whole story, in particular the axis around which the cycle of events takes place, namely a pair of earrings. Helman tries to show how Ophüls manages this axis in film. A detailed deconstruction of the plot highlights the role the earrings play as an element structuring the film, and their relation with the motif of lies and lying. The earrings function on three levels at the same time: as material objects, as elements of the plot, and on a mental level. The plot is totally fictitious, artificial and constructed, and Ophüls appears to be aiming at some artificial world of film, that does not exist outside of his work. The director plays with he convention of the melodrama, but does not take it seriously. In a similar fashion he enjoys playing with the camera, without celebrating what is achieved with its help. In this manner he achieves an effect of unique, rococo charm, which so far no one could imitate.
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