Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actors: Jean Gabin, Simone Simon, Danielle Darrieux
Director: Max Ophuls
Genres: Indie & Art House, Comedy, Drama
Roving with his dazzlingly mobile camera around the decadent ballrooms, bucolic countryside retreats, urban bordellos, and painter's studios of late nineteenth-century Parisian society, Max Ophuls brings his astonishing vi... more »
Max Ophuls' marvelous film of pleasure and, perhaps, love
C. O. DeRiemer | San Antonio, Texas, USA | 06/24/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The screen is pitch black and we hear a voice..."I'm so happy to be talking in the dark as if I were beside you, and maybe I am." The speaker is Guy de Maupassant (voiced by Jean Marais), and Le Plaisir is three of his stories filmed by the great director Max Ophuls. The connecting thread? That pleasure, or even love, lies in how people intermingle their lives, with a shrug, assumptions, an apology, a thank you. Le Plaisir is not so much a sophisticated film of attraction and hope as it is a film of rueful wisdom. It's best to keep in mind while watching this movie that while life can be enjoyed, there are times when hope can disappear.
The three stories consist of, first, La Masque. We are in 19th Century Paris at the Palais de la Dance, where great, swirling balls are held. This is a place where young women hope to find pleasure and rich men; where old women chase memories and young suitors; where prostitutes and their pimps gather, where the men are young bucks and old goats, where "rough cotton to the finest cambric" can combine. One slender man in full dinner dress rushes into the palace and begins to dance with a beautiful young woman. He prances and kicks, yet his face is like a frozen mask of youth. He collapses on the dance floor and a doctor is called. When the doctor loosens the man's clothes, he finds...well, let's say that when the man is delivered home to his wife by the doctor, she tells him a story of the battle between pleasure and love.
In La Maison Tellier, we learn all about a cozy, friendly and long established brothel in a small town on the Channel coast. The bourgeois men of the town are as well-known there as they are to their wives. Then Madame decides to close her establishment for a night so that she and her girls can travel into the countryside to attend her niece's first communion. They have one or two adventures on the train. In the small village they spend the night with Madame's brother and meet the young girl. They attend the communion in the village church. They collect flowers on the way back, and are met with genuine affection and with great gaiety when Madame reopens her place of business the following night. We witness a touching story, as de Maupassant tells us, when pleasure and purity come together.
Le Modele gives us a story where pleasure struggles with moral decay, where "happiness is not a joyful thing." We witness a painter and his model meet, rapturously embrace lust and, as lust tires, recrimination grows. The love which endures as the story plays out may not be most people's idea of happiness.
This is a marvelously told series of stories. La Masque and Le Modele are relatively short bookends to the major tale of La Maison Tellier. With this one, it would be difficult not to become delighted and engaged with Madame and her girls and her brother. Even the puffed up townsmen are not without a sympathetic side; which man among us wouldn't mind being flattered, even for a price, by Madame's girls?
In the cast are some of France's best known actors, including Claude Dauphin, Danielle Darrieux, Jean Gabin, Daniel Gelin, Simon Simon, Madeleine Renaud and Pierre Brasseur.
Please note that the Criterion release is not scheduled until September 16, 2008. My comments are based on the Region 2 release which I own. I like this film so well I plan to buy the Criterion Region 1 version when it comes out. After I have a chance to look at Criterion's extras, I'll post an extra paragraph here about them."
Ophüls' Swirling Lesson in Pleasure.
G. Merritt | Boulder, CO | 10/23/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It was a happy day when I learned Criterion was finally releasing Max Ophüls' three great films, La Ronde, Le Plaisir, and Earrings of Madame de.... Ophüls is celebrated for his brilliant tracking shots and elaborate camera movements (which influenced Stanley Kubrick). He is also revered for his sparkling, Oscar-nominated black-and-white French comedy/drama, Le Plaisir (1952), which is nothing short of truly great French cinema. After experiencing this film, few would disagree with Roger Ebert's assessment of Ophüls as "one of the great pleasures of the cinema."
Based on three stories by 19th-century French writer Guy de Maupassant (a protégé of Flaubert), Le Plaisir is a lesson in how humans are ruled by pleasure. Featuring an ensemble cast of French stars (including Danielle Darrieux, Jean Gabin, and Simone Simon), Le plaisir live up to the promise of its title. "Le Masque" tells the story of an aging man who hides behind a mask of youth at a dance hall in an effort to extend his youthful reveries in his pursuit of women. "La Maison Tellier" examines a small-town Madam and her bordello of girls (whores) on a summer outing to experience a first communion. "Le Modèle" (the best of the three tales) tells the story of an artist's model, who jumps from a window out of her love for Jean the painter.
The Criterion edition of Le plaisir features a newly restored high-definition digital transfer; an introduction by filmmaker Todd Haynes (Far from Heaven); "From Script to Screen", a video essay featuring film scholar Jean-Pierre Berthomé discussing the evolution of Max Ophuls's screenplay for Le plaisir; interviews with actor Daniel Gélin, assistant director Tony Aboyantz, and set decorator Robert Christidès; new and improved English subtitle translation; and a new essay by film critic Robin Wood.