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87 of 90 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Max Ophuls' marvelous film of pleasure and, perhaps, love, 24 Mar 2007
C. O. DeRiemer (San Antonio, Texas, USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Le Plaisir [DVD] (DVD)
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. The Region Two DVD has a fine black-and-white transfer as well as several excellent extras, the best being an hour-long documentary titled "A Journey Through Le Plaisir: On the Trail of Max Ophuls." A special note should be made of the English subtitles. They are among the best I've ever encountered. I don't read French, but they seem to capture what I imagine is the rueful, humane and amusing tone of the original.
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50 of 54 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Maupassant and Ophuls in perfect harmony, 12 Feb 2007
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This review is from: Le Plaisir [DVD] (DVD)
Delightful cinematic treatment of three short stories by Maupassant by one of the true masters of cinema. The Mask and The Model are both nicely done but it is Madame Tellier's Establishment which takes up 2/3rd's of the running time that is the real treat here.Possibly Maupassant's most wonderful short story, the madam of a town brothel closes it for one night taking all her girls with her into the countryside to attend her niece's confirmation.How this affects the brothel's clientele,the women themselves and their"country cousins" makes for sublime entertainment.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Innocemce and shock, 8 July 2013
Luc REYNAERT (Beernem, Belgium) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Le Plaisir [DVD] (DVD)
This movie (a triptych) illustrates perfectly the universe and the themes of the great French writer Guy de Maupassant. The film is based on three of his stories: The Mask, The House Tellier and The Model.
Guy de Maupassant is a master in analyzing the love (sex) life of the French bourgeoisie. Males spend their evenings in brothels (`maisons closes' in French), but, when these houses are really 'closed', they fight amongst themselves verbally and physically. Other themes in these stories are innocence and its loss and (the fight against) old age.

The film explains clearly that the triggers which unmask the true nature and the real motives of the protagonists here are shocks, unexpected confrontations and reactions: the shock when the males find their brothels 'closed', the shock when the villagers are confronted with 'beautiful' people from the city, the shock of being remembered of one's innocent life as a young girl, the shock inflicted by an unexpected reaction of a mistress, or the shock when a real mask is taken off one's face.
However, Max Ophüls doesn't explain very well why one of the `city' girls triggers a general sobbing of all those who are attending a Holy Communion Service. Also, the title of the film doesn't cover the essence of its content.

One should read the three stories of Guy de Maupassant after having seen the film.

This film with its perfect casting and a Jean Gabin in great form is a must for all lovers of true French cinema, even if it is shot here by a German.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Max Ophüls at his best, 18 May 2011
This review is from: Le Plaisir [DVD] (DVD)
Max Ophüls, to my mind one of the best film-directors ever, is at his best with the three short films on this dvd.
Each is based on a Maupassant short story, with the first and third much shorter than the second, and each is memorable, both for the story which unfolds and for the consummate beauty and sensitivity in its unfolding.
The first illustrates through its main character that consuming wish of at least some men to retain, come what may, their hold on the good things in life, i.e. wine, women and song, no matter their advancing years ; the second is a quite delightful tale which begins and ends in an establishment for which the term "brothel" seems terribly harsh, but which contains in the middle an idyllic jaunt into the country and back ; the third is the starkest of the three, but has at its heart too, like the others, the emotions that are stirred between man and woman.
Black and wine, aspect 4:3, and not to be missed...the music in the first two films is itself a treat.
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Le Plaisir [DVD]
Le Plaisir [DVD] by Max Ophüls (DVD - 2006)
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