Max Ophüls’s penultimate film, released in 1953, has a unique structure: it starts out as a sunny, flirtatious aristocratic comedy, but it’s not long before the clouds roll in and the mood darkens into tragedy. Danielle Darrieux plays the titular Parisian comtesse, forced to sell her diamond earrings to pay off a debt. When her husband (Charles Boyer) finds out, he buys them back, only to give them to his lover. She takes them to Istanbul and sells them to a gambling den. An Italian diplomat (Vittorio de Sica) brings them back to Paris… And that’s where the trouble begins. Like all of Ophüls’s later films, ‘Madame de…’ is flawlessly designed, the camera swooping and gliding through embassy balls, smoking parlours, train corridors and cathedrals. The result is slighter and more emotionally distant than Ophüls’s masterpiece ‘Letter from an Unknown Woman’, but filled with a similar mood of romantic despair and desperation.