madame de 3

 Oct 4:  Lecture: Film Grammar (Martine Pierquin)

             Film: Madame de ........  (Ophuls)

In Film Grammar, Martine will show how the great directors combine the visual and literary elements of a film to create an integrated totality, where each element enhances and nuances the other. We are used to thinking of screenwriting as dialogue, language, plot, characterisation, theme - everything that generates meaning prior to the intervention of the visual. But film directors such as De Sica, Ford, Hitchcock, Keaton, Kurosawa, Lang, Lubitsch, Mamoulian, Murnau, Ozu, Ophuls, Polanski, Renoir, Sirk, von Stroheim, Welles, had a more organic approach to screenwriting. For them, it meant not only using the imagery that would be the bone-structure of the story; it meant creating a totality where the literary and visual elements would be designed in interaction. There are ways of seeing and understanding meaning that the camera particularly allows us.  

In his 1953 film ‘Madame de …’ we will look at Max Ophuls’ employment of the dynamic camera in movie storytelling. This was one of the last films made by Max Ophuls and is based on the novel by Louise de Vilmorin. It epitomizes his style of dazzling camerawork, magnificent sets and lavish costumes, and is also characteristic of Ophuls in emphasising the perspective of the female protagonist. Danielle Darrieux and Charles Boyer lead the cast, along with Vittorio de Sica..

American critic, Andrew Sarris called it “the most perfect film ever made”, and the English critic, Derek Malcolm said it was “a supreme piece of film-making….a magnificent and utterly timeless dissection of passion and affection”. Molly Haskell called it “a masterpiece”.