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3.8 out of 5 stars
Le Plaisir [DVD]
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 1 February 2018
From the opening moments of the first of three tales based on stories by Maupassant ~ Le Masque ~ cinema magician Max Ophuls sweeps the viewer into a sad, slight anecdote of a man at a jubilant masked ball wearing his own 'mask'. The camera takes us on an eye-pleasuring journey through the various chambers and levels of the palais where the ball is being held, only allowing us actual access when its central character himself enters the building. It's an incredible sequence, and a startling beginning to a film.
Where the first tale lasts a mere fifteen or so minutes, the second ~ La Maison Tellier ~ is much longer, though its plot, as such, is almost as slight. Again, its opening sequence is a cinematic tour-de-force, including the droll frustrations of the group of idling men who have, to their dismay, discovered their Saturday evening haunt {the titular 'house'} is, unusually, closed. The women have gone on a jaunt into the country to help celebrate the first communion of Madame Tellier's niece. What happens there, and the way in which it is shown by Ophuls, is subtly rendered, with the great Jean Gabin featuring as Madame Tellier's married brother, who falls for one of her girls, played by Danielle Darrieux. Madame is played by Madeleine Renaud. A luxury cast, indeed.
The last of the tales, and another brief one ~ La Modele ~ features Daniel Gelin as a painter who impetuously falls for a young woman, played by Simone Simon, who quickly moves in with him . . . true love runs far from smoothly, and matters become quite dark and almost fable-like by the forlorn close of the tale, and thereby the film.
Principal photographer Philippe Agostini deserves much the credit for the bravura look of the film, as does editor Leonide Azar, but it's the genius of Ophuls at one continues to marvel, truly one of the giants of cinema. Le Plaisir is one of his most delightful films, with an enviously impressive cast all at their best.
The extra features include a leisurely, almost hour-long film ~ slightly overlong, I thought ~ taking us back to the French provincial location of the Telllier girls' outing, and also an eloquent 'introduction' to the three films within the film by the brilliant American director Todd Haynes, whose love of Ophuls is obvious.

Joyously recommended.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 20 August 2015
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. From a purely technical standpoint (a 'point of criticism’ which somehow seems inappropriate for Ophuls) there is so much to admire – from the stunning, extended panning shots (with accompanying innovative studio set design) across the ball-room in Le Masque and across the apartment as Joséphine and Daniel Gélin’s artist Jean violently argue in Le Modèle, the remarkable sequence of the unmasking of Ambroise, through to the 'Vertigo-like’ PoV shots as Joséphine climbs the stairs.

Once again, Ophuls’ film, via its casting, also demonstrates the esteem in which the film-maker was held. In addition to Darrieux and Simon (the pair also demonstrating Ophuls’ unerring taste in alluring actresses!), we get Jean Gabin as Mme. Tellier’s carpenter brother, Joseph, a relatively low-key role for an actor of Gabin’s stature (but, unsurprisingly, played to understated perfection), Pierre Brasseur (magnificent in Les Enfants du Paradis), impressive in a cameo as the 'frisky’ travelling salesman, Julian Ledentu, in the hilarious 'whores on a train’ scene, plus elsewhere (amongst others) Paulette Dubost and Jean Servais.

Theme-wise, in addition to the film’s 'with pleasure comes pain’ thread ('Happiness is not a joyful thing’), Ophuls (via Maupassant) also plays up the unorthodox risqué elements – particularly in the film’s centrepiece, extended section (La Maison Tellier) where, first, 'the house’ is (hilariously) treated with near-reverence by the town professionals (mayor, judge, tax collectors, etc) and, second, the brilliant satirical juxtaposition as Mme. Tellier’s whores nervously take their place in church (in a sequence calling to mind a sort of 'Bunuel-light’). Indeed, Ophuls’ taste for pushing the boundaries of the risqué proved something of an undoing here (as described in detail in one of the DVD extras), since the director’s first choice for the third tale was Maupassant’s 'lesbian story’, La Femme de Paul (which had to be ditched at the behest of an incoming producer). And, indeed, there is a slightly disjointed (and abrupt?) feel to the replacement, La Modèle, albeit it does not (for me) detract from what is another must-see work from this outstanding film-maker.
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on 19 October 2015
The film is breathtakingly beautiful, some scenes (mainly in the second episode) look like impressionist paintings-and the film is in black and white!-. Subtitles are not perfect: Premiere Communion is not Confirmation in English, but First Communion, and there are a few more imprecisions, which, apart from the Confirmation, do not distract the viewer from the dialogue.
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on 11 November 2014
Mx ophuls can do no wrong. Another masterpiece.
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on 23 November 2015
Purchased on request as a Christmas present, so cannot really comment on the film itself I am afraid. Sorry.
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on 17 August 2017
Interesting French classic film.
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on 6 March 2017
Enjoyable, but not as good as Madame de.....
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on 17 January 2018
This item is defective and does not play in any player in any region. I am not pleased at getting ripped off.
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on 8 July 2013
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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on 13 March 2013
Le Plaisir (Max Ophüls, 1952, 97')

Produced by Max Ophüls, M Kieffer, Édouard Harispuru
Screenplay by Jacques Natanson, Max Ophüls
Story by Guy de Maupassant
Starring Claude Dauphin, Jean Galland, Gaby Morlay, Madeleine Renaud, Daniel Gélin, Danielle Darrieux, Simone Simon, Jean Gabin
Music by Joe Hajos, Maurice Yvain
Cinematography by Philippe Agostini, Christian Matras
Editing by Leonide Azar.

French comedy-drama anthology film directed by Max Ophüls adapting three stories by Guy de Maupassant. It is also known as House of Pleasure. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Art Direction (Max Ophüls).

Le Masque
A somewhat artificial looking young dandy goes to an ornate dance hall, where he finds a young woman to be his dance partner. When he faints from the exertion, a doctor is called. He discovers that the dandy is in fact an old man wearing a mask to hide his aged appearance. The doctor takes the old man home to his patient wife. She explains that her husband Ambroise used to attract the ladies who frequented the hairdresser salon where he worked, but in the space of two years, he lost his looks. He goes out in disguise in an attempt to recapture his youth.

La Maison Tellier
Julia Tellier, the well-respected madam of a small-town whorehouse, takes her girls on an outing to her brother's village to attend the first communion of her niece. Her regular patrons are taken aback when they discover the whorehouse closed without explanation that Saturday night. One finally discovers a sign explaining the reason and is relieved. Julia's brother becomes infatuated with Rosa, one of her workers, and promises to visit next month.

Le Modèle
An artist falls in love with his model. Things are idyllic at first, but after living together for a while, they begin to quarrel constantly. Finally, he moves in with his friend. She eventually finds him, but he wants no more to do with her. He ignores her threat to jump from a window, and is so guilt-ridden when she does so immediately that he marries her.

Sinking into Le plaisir, the contemporary viewer is swept away by staged fantasies, lavishly artificial sets; and yet through all the mannered sophistication glimmers a consistent, astonishingly empathic, human sensibility. This, with literally all Ophüls, never changes, and makes him a lasting modern author.

232 Le Plaisir (Max Ophüls, 1952, 97') -Rare erotism - 13/3/2013
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