26 MARCH 1954, Page 12

Madame de . . . (Cameo-Poly.) Three

MAX OPHULS is a brilliant blender of irony, frivolity and melancholy, those three essential ingredients to love as the French love it, and in Madame de 4 . an adaptation of Louise de Vilmorin's enchanting novel, these properties are balanced to perfection. In this story which revolves in elegant circles round a pair of ear-rings, which gives off the rich gilded scent of the director's favourite period, 1880, Danielle Darrieux, Charles Boyer and Vittorio de Sica play their sides of the eternal triangle with exquisite subtlety. The epoch, with its stylised formalities, the superficialities of its beau monde, has been captured so certainly by Ophuls that the human drama unfolded seems trebly poignant. In particular Charles Boyer as the husband, unreproachful, even tactful until his honour is too blatantly outraged, gives a memorable performance. It is a great treat to see him once again in a role which calls for serious acting rather than easy charm. Mlle. Darrieux too is called upon to move from sunshine into shadow, and her change from a flirt into a broken-hearted woman is achieved with rare sensitiveness. Over the whole film, which is lavishly furnished, there broods the necessity, which has diminished though not departed in this age, of keeping up appear- ances, of playing the.parts allotted to one in life with dignity, of suffering politely, of discussing anguish reasonably, and when Mlle. Darrieux finally ceases to keep to this code and is simply a desperately unhappy woman dying of unrequited love, her tragedy, so genuine in a world of laboriously

constructed pretences, is deeply touching. M. de Sica is possibly a better director than he is actor, but though he cannot match the delicate nuances of his colleagues he is sympathetic and both looks and behaves exactly like an Italian diplomat.

To music by Oscar Strauss and Georges van Parys and with dialogue by Marcel Achard the film glides gently from gaiety to grief, M. Ophuls, now sadly, now satiri- cally commenting with his camera on the strange Destiny, symbolised by a piece of jewellery, which rules the lives of his characters. This is a notable film, and also a thoroughly enjoyable one, and it can take its place firmly, without a qualm, a little

ahead of La Ronde,' a little behind Liebelei.