Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actor: Paul Gégauff; Danièle Gegauff; Clemence Gégauff; Paula Moore; Michel Valette; Giancarlo Sisti; Cécile Vassort; Mario Santini (II); Pierre Santini; Jean-Christophe Queff; Aurora Maris; Jean Cherlian; Dominique Marcas; Tony Librizzi; Alain David; René
Director: Claude Chabrol
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Mystery & Suspense
Phillipe and Esther live an idyllic life with their daughter, Elise. In an attempt to preserve this bliss, Phillipe decides that he and Esther should each have affairs, being sure to tell each other openly about them. The ... more »
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Hitchcock, Lang and Chabrol
Doug Anderson | Miami Beach, Florida United States | 05/22/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Chabrol is often compared to Hitchcock and both directors do share an interest in ironic detachment and the social and cultural elite. But there are important differences. Hitchcock explores the social spectrum of the 1930's, 1940's, 1950's, and early 1960's and Chabrol the social spectrum of the 1960's, 1970's, 1980's, 1990's, 2000's... Hitchcock heroes are usually Englishmen or Americans who must fend off threats from either an old corrupt Europe or a newly corrupted Europe (Nazis) but the threat comes from outside. (Sometimes the threat comes from a stranger recently arrived to an as yet uncorrupted community.) In Chabrol's cinema, however, corruption comes from within, or, more accurately, everything is always already in some way compromised and corrupted. Whether it be the social structure or the psychic structure everything and everyone is implicated in that corruption. If Hitchcock is making films in a moment in time when individuals can still be viewed as heroes and societies/nations can be viewed as good or bad; Chabrol is making films in a time when man has reluctantly or no accepted corruption of individuals and societies as a given. The two directors are therefore operating in very different cultural moments with very different ideas and presumptions about what one can expect from individuals and societies.
Many critics have also noticed a connection between Chabrol and Fritz Lang. Both directors explore classical genres and narrative modes but they also challenge those genres and modes and never treat them as static but always subject to the influence of new social and thus new psychological conditions for being. (Chabrol's own DOCTOR M is a tribute to Lang.) PLEASURE PARTY is a perfect example of Chabrol's employment of classical camera angles with which to circumscribe a narrative space but with the added Langian touch of interrogating the confines of that space and testing its limits.
PLEASURE PARTY is about a man, Phillipe,who was born to privilege and has spent his life living in the pastoral splendour of country manors. Phillipe spends his days reading novels, collecting paintings, drinking wine, fishing, making love, and, whenever he feels the urge, traveling the world. Whats real for Phillipe are his own needs and one of those needs is the need to be seen not as a bourgeois or pseudo-aristocrat but as an avant-garde intellectual and so he relates to people only insofar as they reify this self-image. In matters of love Phillipe thinks he is being anti-bourgeoisie and hip when he suggests to his girlfriend, Esther, that they swing with their friends but in reality he is as backward as they come for in love he's an absolute tyrant, a Svengali, and what he needs from a lover is total selfless slavelike devotion. The problem with Phillipe is that he doesn't realize that his urge to explore new social conditions and new psycho-sexual possibilities is countered by an even stronger urge to reaffirm the much older patriarchical institutions that assure his place in the social/cultural/sexual order.
Phillipe, who has allowed himself to cheat(which is of course the oldest bourgeois practice under the sun) whenever he feels like it, encourages Esther to do the same. It would seem that Phillipe wants Esther to cultivate the same tastes and to enjoy the same privileges and so be in every way like himself. When Esther does comply with his wishes Phillipe is elated because he thinks this will make their bond even more intimate. But when it becomes apparent to Phillipe that Esther enjoys not just the erotic part of swinging but the liberation from Phillipe that comes along with it he realizes that his plan has gone seriously wrong. This is where Chabrol really differs from Hitchcock. Hitchcock's women, erotic and intelligent as they often are, are never powerful nor do they ever assert themselves in a way that contradicts or challenges traditional male power.
PLEASURE PARTY is, therefore, about the liberatory potential of a particular cultural moment in the mid-seventies while at the same time being about resistance to the new permissiveness if the new permissiveness means compromise or loss of power for the social and cultural elite. Phillipe is a divided and conflicted soul and so he is the perfect subject through which to explore this conflicted moment of cultural change. Phillipe is fine with living a hip and swinging seventies lifestyle so long as this doesn't entail any compromising of his social position and cultural authority. When he realizes that the new freedoms mean just that he immediately turns against them. He also turns against the woman who, he perceives, has taken this power from him.
While it may be true that each character in a Chabrol film is determined by social class and the culture (ie narrative structures and norms) that support that class, each character entertains the illusion that they are only connected to the social world in a superficial way or as a matter of convenience and that there is really nothing preventing them from living however they want to. But there are always moments in Chabrol's films where characters realize that they are, in fact, not the free-thinking creatures that they once thought themselves to be. This goes for both the high and low born characters--both feel they occupy no real place in the social order when in fact that place is the very thing that defines them and determines their behavior.
Whether there is any such thing as "human nature" or if the only social determinant is "class" is something that I think interests Chabrol very much. In Chabrol's films men and women often act like beasts but its unclear if this is because they are beastly by nature or if complex social conditions have made them so. If we are simply socially constructed beings, products of our social situations, then our deepest drives are really simply affirming compliance with the social world that supports us or reactions against that social world. Time and again Chabrol's films end with the rich realizing that they are not as free as they thought and that they too live in social cages just like the poor. Hitchcock's high living heroes, on the other hand, never feel encased in their country estates or in their luxury high rises. Hitchcock heroes have doubts and anxieties but these are assuaged when the world is made right again by "right" action; something that is not possible in Lang or Chabrol.
PLEASURE PARTY is not one of Chabrol's best (I've seen maybe 30 Chabrol films and this one I would place somewhere in the middle) but for the filmgoer who enjoys following the trajectory of favorite directors this is an important film in the Chabrol filmography.
Best Chabrol's: Les Biches, La Femme Infidele, Le Boucher, Que la bete muere, La Rupture, Ten Days Wonder, Wedding in Blood, Nada, Innocents With Dirty Hands, Masques, Cry of the Owl, La Ceremonie, Merci Pour le Chocolat.
Ambitious but overlong and not entirely successful
Trevor Willsmer | London, England | 04/05/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"'Une Partie de Plaisir' is minor Chabrol and has many of the problems of his considerably worse 'L'Enfer.' It's another morality tale cum horror story, with swinger Paul Gegauff's marriage and world coming unstuck after he encourages his wife to have affairs. It's not that she sleeps with other men when he clearly was expecting her not to, but that instead of deriving all her ideas from him she starts to take them from her lovers as well and gradually, as her dependency on him lessens, his need to mould and control her grows until he can no longer live with her or without her. While it never falls into L'Enfer's farcical inadvertent comedy, it shares a tiringly repetitive third act where the only way to top one outrage is with another, until it becomes comic and rather boring. Screenwriter Gegauff's performance in the lead is brave but not always entirely successful, his face veering between a very literal copy of the two stone masks of Greek tragedy and comedy to an almost frightening degree as the film progresses. Interesting, brave but not entirely successful, it's a film I doubt I'll feel any compulsion to return to in the future.
Picture quality is an acceptable but not outstanding standards conversion from PAL while the extras include an audio interview with Chabrol."