Some celluloid experiences are just pure pleasure. Aptly named, Le Plaisir is one such film. Based on a triptych of tales by Guy de Maupassant, Max Ophuls brings the bewildering decadence of late 19th century France to life on the screen. His camera roams around luxurious ballrooms, high class brothels and artist studios, dazzling and delighting. He amasses a stellar cast including Danielle Darrieux, Jean Gabin, Claude Dauphin and Simone Simon for his opus.
In Le Masque, a decadent ball attracts a masked dandy (Jean Galland), eager to dance with the beautiful young girls. After passing out, he’s treated by a doctor (Dauphin) who discovers the secret behind the mask. Chaos strikes a small town in La Maison Tellier when the titular establishment is closed by its it’s well-respected madam (Madeleine Renaud) so she can take her girls to the country for her niece’s first communion. Where her brother (Gabin) takes an unhealthy interest in one of the girls (Darrieux). In the final chapter, Le Modèle, Ophuls focusses on a painter (Daniel Gélin) who falls madly in love with a model (Simon). However, the attraction soon fades.
Le Plaisir is a sumptuous whirlwind of hedonism and beauty. It’s bright and breezy, jumping between beautiful locations with a spritely athleticism. Ophuls is clearly empathetic to the situation women found themselves in at the time. The women are strong. The men are weak. There’s enthusiastic acting all round, but what makes Le Plaisir such a success is the way he lithely moves between stories, with joie de vivre. It’s truly magical. It was deservedly nominated for an Oscar. A feast of bitter wisdom, melancholy and high jinks.
Special Edition Contents:
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation, from materials supplied by Gaumont
• Original French mono audio (uncompressed LPCM on the Blu-ray)
• Optional English subtitles
• A Journey Through Le Plaisir, a 54-minute documentary by Philippe Roger featuring interviews with cast and crew, and a visit of the film’s locations fifty years on Diary of a Film Shoot, an interview with Ophuls’ assistant director, Jean Valerie
• An interview with Marcel Ophuls, the filmmaker son of Max
• Le Plaisir Restored, Ronald Boullet and Andre Labbouz discuss the restoration process
• Theatrical trailer
• Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Jennifer Dionisio
FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Alexander Jacoby and Philippe Roger
Le Plaisir is released on dual format DVD & Blu-ray by Arrow Academy on 23 October.