Sunday, August 19, 2012

Chat: The Earrings of Madame de . . .

Tracy:  So. The Earrings of Madam Whoever.

Natalie:  Yeah. We could have at least gotten a good shot of the damned earrings at the center of all of the trouble.

Tracy:  I know! And they didn't even look that cute from what I could see. I never got a good hold on what this movie was about? A tragic melodrama? A punish the lying woman movie? Are we supposed to like Madam?

Natalie:  I know! I didn't either. It's obviously supposed to be about a certain level of anonymity but, um, everyone knows who she is. I don't know if we're supposed to like her or not. I didn't care one way or the other about her. I wanted her to stop it with the earrings already.

Tracy:  Yeah. She was such a bad and unnecessary liar. And I didn't really feel bad for her not being able to be with the military dude because I didn't know if we were supposed to be rooting for that.

Natalie:  And we never really know why she needed the money in the first place. I don't care about her problem that causes her to sell the earrings in the first place if I don't know what that problem is. And, yeah, I don't care who she's with or isn't with because she seems to actually be with everyone in her strange open but not marriage.

Tracy:  Yeah. For a while it seemed like a comedy or a sex farce or something with the jeweler selling the earrings back over and over. But then there was the big drama at the end.

Natalie:  I thought it would be SO MUCH better as a rom com or a sex farce. But, no, we have to pretend this is serious business. And what ever happened to the chick in the casino? Was she the husband's mistress? Were we supposed to think she's pregnant? Why else is he sending her away?

Tracy:  Yeah, I assumed that she was the husband's mistress, but I didn't consider pregnant. I guess I thought he just got sick of her? Either way, ew, and then we're supposed to feel bad that he got cuckolded? You know, when I was watching it I thought it was pleasant enough if not genius, but the more we talk about it, the more I'm thinking it was a failure.

Natalie:  I got pregnant because he mentioned another guy who sent away a girl (or got sent away himself) because of a similar "situation" or something. And I probably wanted a better explanation than he just got sick of her. But, the movie relies on those sorts of explanations. I just didn't like it very much. I didn't care about the characters or the earrings or the supposed themes whatever those are. And the 1950s is a touch late for fainting women films. Anyway, so the duel. What sort of duel involves the "offended" just getting to shoot first?! Especially since dudes who fought duels would be gentlemen which means they hunt (or are freaking military generals or whatever) and will just kill the other dude. I know guns were unreliable but not THAT unreliable.
The phrase "I got pregnant" in that sentence is strange. Maybe, "I got to her being pregnant" would be better.

Tracy:  I know! You just stand there and let someone take target practice at you? How is that a duel and not just murder? And Hah! That would be a strange way to get pregnant!

Natalie:  I don't know how it's not just murder! That's what a firing squad is--just minus the extra dudes--and as the "offender, you're just supposed to show up and say "shoot"?! That would be a very strange way to get pregnant   AND, he wasn't even really cuckolded. Nothing that can cause pregnancy actually happened and it seemed they were both MASSIVE flirts anyway--he said he didn't want to have dinner with "her suitors" after the opera. That's a slippery slope to your wife having an affair, dude; no fair putting on the breaks when it actually starts to happen especially when we assume HE had an affair.
Where on earth did I get "dudes" in my head?

Tracy:  You're right--I forgot about those little boytoys who were always following her around. Everyone seemed fine with the arrangement and then he decided to get all self-righteous and trigger-happy about it. And we've got to do something to make this easier to relate to. It's like a bad Russian novel.

Natalie:  Right! So she can't fool around because she sold some earrings and lied about it? Why not try to find out why she sold the earrings? It is like a bad Russian novel. And, like a bad undergrad, the book declares: “Few films establish so much, on so many levels, with such stunning economy. . . . Louise is  . . . anonymous, typical of her privileged class. . . .Ophuls [director] will never let us overlook the underpinnings of this wealthy world: the flows of money and debt, the ubiquitous servants on call, the etiquette of preparation before public appearances. Even the journey from bedroom to front door becomes an elegant sociological exposé. After home and the pawnshop, there is the church (site of bourgeois hypocrisy) and the opera, where all is show . . . Madame de . . . is, by turns, brittle, brutal, compassionate, and moving. Ophuls delineates this world with Brechtian precision, yet he never discounts the strength or significance of stifled, individual yearnings. Even as the characters writhe in their metaphoric prisons or shut these traps on each other, their passions touch us; supremely when Andre closes the windows on Louise like a jailer as he declares, half whispering in secret: ‘I love you.’”

Tracy:  Um, first of all, anonymous typical of her privileged class? Money buys you power and an identity. And the book seems to be making an awfully big deal out of people getting dressed and walking around the house. I think that could have been a place where a critique could have been made, but the movie didn't seem interested in doing so. And no one stifled their yearnings! Their yearnings were all over the place! What movie did the book watch?

Natalie:  Yes! The title of the movie makes her anonymous as does the one contrived shot blocking out her last name on the place card but, otherwise, she IS named. Her first name counts. If they only called her "Madame" the whole film, that might make her anonymous. Meanwhile, everyone knows her, she has people clamoring after her, it's her reputation that allows her to sell the earrings, etc. And we have no comparison; you don't get to make these declarations without showing us the opposite. When the movie centers upon her and identifies her at every turn, she can't be anonymous. And, if you're going to have a critique, you have to make an argument. Having servants doesn't mean you're bad. Being selfish in church/prayer doesn't mean you're rich--or really hypocritical since she is just asking for what she wants and isn't cursing the church or anything. And the opera IS a show! It could have been all of those commentaries but it wasn't at all. I'm pretty sure the book watched a better movie.

Tracy:  Exactly. They are importing A LOT of meaning into scenes that I think were pretty tangential to the story the movie wanted to tell--about this weak sauce love triangle. Just wanting those scenes to mean something isn't enough--you have to show me where that argument is being made. And it wasn't. Just wasn't.

Natalie:  AND, Andre OPENS the window when she's being all distraught and HE says she should go out but she's cancelled all of her engagements. Jailer my ass. Nope. No argument was made. I say ditch it.

Tracy:  Hah! You're right! He's not the jailer! I think he just probably wanted her to be more, like, good at having an affair so he wouldn't have to straight-up shoot a guy. Toss it overboard!

Natalie:  HA! Totally. Gone and gone. So, next . . . Gallipoli. Pre-[publicly]-crazy Mel Gibson!

Tracy:  Oh, but we can't forget chess-playing Death in The Seventh Seal!

Natalie:  Shit! Why can't I keep these movies straight? We JUST talked about me watching that movie!
I left my brain in a prostitution arrests chart at work methinks.

Tracy:  Hah! That's the best excuse I've ever heard. And in an ideal world, we would skip over The Seventh Seal.

Natalie:  It's a pretty good one if I do say so. You've already watched it so I won't skip it. And THEN we'll watch Mel.

Tracy:  Yep! Lucky us!

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