Browse all reviews by letter     A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z 0 - 9

France 1952
Directed by
Max Ophuls
97 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

Plaisir, Le

A trio of Guy de Maupassant short stories are adapted here for Ophüls' rather melancholy look at the eternal pursuit of pleasure. All are set at the end of the 19th century, the director’s favourite era. In the first and shortest story, Le Masque, a strange dandy-like character in tuxedo, top hat, monocle, and moustache madly rushes onto the dance floor to join a quadrille. Ophüls famously fluid camera follows his strenuous antics until he collapses. When a doctor attends to him, he is discovered to be an old man and when he is taken to his tatty home, his understanding wife reveals the reason behind his antics – a desperate attempt to re-live his glorious youth.

The La Maison Tellier is a jauntier affair, somewhat reminiscent of the pastoral films of Jean Renoir (not a little because Jean Gabin plays the rural host), as group of prostitutes go a la campagne for the First Communion  of the madame’s neice.  The third episode, Le Modèle, is the darkest of the three as Jean Servais who up to this point has been narrating as the unseen de Maupassant appears in person to tell the story of an artist friend who falls madly in love with a girl (Simone Simon) only to abandon her once domestic banality sets in but ends up marrying her out of pity after she tries to kill herself.

Ophüls’ touch is light, his concern as much with form as it is with content. The result is a film of many visual delights, whether the setting are in the studio or en plein air but in absence of a centralizing narrative it feels like a series of beautifully presented hors d’oeuvres without a main course. 

DVD Extras: Introduction by director Todd Haynes; Audio commentary by Adrian Martin, Senior Research Fellow, Monash University; A Journey Through Le Plaisir: On the trail of Max Ophüls with his personal assistant, Ulla de Coulston; and, From Script To Screen: author and critic Jean-Pierre Berthomé on Le Plaisir

Available from: Madman




Want something different?

random vintage best worst