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Criterion Collection: Le Plaisir [DVD] [1952] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]

4.9 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Language: French
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (US and Canada DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 4:3 - 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: NR (Not Rated) (US MPAA rating. See details.)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B001BEK8BU
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 191,620 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)

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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.
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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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In one of the impressive set of extras that come with the Second Sight DVD of Max Ophuls’ 1952 film, Le Plaisir, an (admittedly fairly obscure) French film director refers to the qualities that Ophuls brought to his films as 'indescribable’ and, although the film-maker’s triptych of Maupassant short stories is another lush, innovative visual experience (narrated in ironic and evocative fashion by Maupassant himself – actually Jean Servais) with a sharply perceptive and bitter-sweet script by Jacques Natanson and a series of outstanding acting turns, the overall impression created by the film (and by Ophuls’ cinema, more generally) does indeed amount to something (somehow) greater than its constituent parts.

As might be expected being based on Maupassant, here the theme of 'pleasure’ is tempered (albeit Ophuls and Natanson do it with perhaps more optimism than would the source author) with accompanying 'sacrifice’, whether it be that of Gaby Morlay’s long-suffering, but loyal, wife to Jean Galland’s ageing 'Dorian Gray-like’ would-be dandy, Ambroise, in the opening tale, Le Masque, the (again) superb Danielle Darrieux’s rueful prostitute, Madame Rosa, reflecting on lost childhood innocence in the brilliant communion sequence in La Maison Tellier, or the similarly outstanding Simone Simon as the obsessed lover, Joséphine, in the concluding tale, Le Modèle.
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(I can't resist) LE PLAISIR is a pleasure. It's brilliant.

Director Max Ophuls transferred 3 Guy de Maupassant stories (set circa the late 1800s) to the screen while retaining an amazingly strong sense of their literary source.

The 3 stories are a wry look at love. They're not for those people "in love with love". They're for and about cynical, down-to-earth types. Despite that, the stories are vibrant and fun and I never lost interest.

This is a B&W film, directed with Ophuls mystical touch and influenced by the Impressionistic paintings of the story's milieu.

It's an ensemble piece filled with wonderful actors. Just to name a few: Danielle Darrieux -- so very lovely here -- and she gets to show off her equally lovely singing voice a little. Jean Gabin. Claude Dauphin. And a delightful surprise for me, Simone Simon, who demonstrates how much she was wasted by Hollywood.

This is a quality DVD from the Criterion Collection. The special features include an interview with one of the actors, Daniel Gélin, and an insightful behind-the-scenes presentation by French film scholar Jean-Pierre Berthome (speaking in English). I would suggest watching the "Intro" by Todd Haynes AFTER seeing the movie since he gives away too much for my taste (these stories are full of little surprises) -- but definitely watch it.

A couple years earlier, Max Ophuls made a similarly-themed ensemble piece with many of the same actors which Criterion has also made available: LA RONDE (Region 1).
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