The Earrings of Madame de...
Max Ophuls stands alongside the greatest of all filmmakers, and "The Earrings of Madame De..." remains his finest achievement. Hinging on the titular pair of jewels, his plot, about a depressed high society lady, her cruel husband, and the man for whom she falls, takes more twists and turns than your standard Hollywood blockbuster. His camera follows them, turning and twisting and panning across dance halls, bedrooms, and even down sweeping vistas. It's nothing less than invigorating.
As is usual, Criterion has released a package full of enticing extras: a visual essay by the always-great film scholar Tag Gallagher, an audio commentary, and a selection of interviews with Ophuls' collaborator. But most interesting is an "introduction" - it's more like an audio commentary that runs for the first minutes of the film - by Paul Thomas Anderson, one of the greatest filmmakers of his own time, and one of the heirs to Ophuls' sensual, kinetic filmmaking.
He adores the movies, and to hear him pore over its details - the camera movements, the blocking, the set design, everything he can set his eyes to - reveals new contours and conceits, both for "Madame" and for Anderson's own work. It's a shame he wasn't able to offer a commentary for the whole film.
Some feel that the HD presentation of "Madame" isn't up to the usual Criterion standard, but it remains a major upgrade from the DVD. The textures are rendered in an entirely new light, Ophuls' fetishistic attention-to-detail accentuated further. More than ever, it becomes clear that he was among the masters.
"The Earrings of Madame De..."