french films > Le Plaisir (House of Pleasure)

Le Plaisir (House of Pleasure)

Le Plaisir

Le Plaisir (House of Pleasure)

Review score: * * * * *
Visitor's mark: * * * * *

cast: Claude Dauphin, Jean Galland, Jean Gabin, Daniele Gelin

year: 1951

colour: no

certificate: PG

director: Max Ophuls

runtime: 93

Le Plaisir is made up of three stories by Guy de Maupassant (who was also adapted by Jean Renoir for 1936's A Day in the Country, Val Lewton and Robert Wise for 1944's Mademoiselle Fifi, and Jean-Luc Godard for 1966's Masculin-Feminin). Likewise La Ronde was adapted from a play made up of several smaller vingettes. Perhaps it is the nature of these shorter stories that allowed Ophuls such creative experimentation without having to delve as deeply into character as in The Earrings of Madame de.... Which is not to say that Le Plaisir is not great in itself. Jean-Luc Godard once called it 'the greatest French film made since the liberation.' Indeed, on many polls of the greatest pictures ever made, Le Plaisir ranks higher than The Earrings of Madame de.... I think the reason for this is that it's a beginning. It's a basic key to understanding the rest of Ophuls. If someone is curious about Ophuls and only has time for one film, then it would be Le Plaisir -- the same way that Breathless is a good introduction to Godard.

The first story in Le Plaisir is "The Mask." It's a very brief story about a strange man who comes into a dance hall wearing a mask. He dances crazily for a short while, then collapses. A doctor (Claude Dauphin) takes the mask off, and is astonished to find that it is really an old man (Jean Galland). He takes the man home, and the man's wife (Gaby Morlay) tells his story; that the old man has been a womanizer all his life and can't live with the fact that he's now old. The woman admits how overjoyed she was when he got his first gray hair. The doctor leaves and goes back to the party, a little wiser.

The second story takes up the bulk of the movie -- about 70 minutes. It's "The Tellier House." Ophuls' camera tracks all up and down the outside of the house, introducing us to all its characters, without ever cutting or going inside. It's a whorehouse, and all the town's men go there for a good time. On a Saturday night, the house is suddenly closed, and a group of men, not knowing what to do, begin arguing with one another. Meanwhile, the ladies have gone to the country for a first communion. They take the simple country folk by storm, and then return back to the city, much to the joy of their grateful male clients.

The third story is very short, "The Model," with the great Simone Simon as an artists' model who becomes involved with an artist (Daniel Gélin). The artist is typically a womanizer and has left several models behind him. But Simon jumps out a window and cripples herself, which brings the artist to marry her after all. In the movie's final shot, he wheels her along the beach in her wheelchair, and two bystanders wonder why he does not seem happy in spite of his fame, wealth, and marriage.


12/06/2012 - arijushouse said : mark * * * * *

That's the perfect inshigt in a thread like this.


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