Three stories about pleasure. The first one is about a man hiding his age behind a mask to keep going to balls and fancying women, pleasure and youth. Then comes the long tale of Julia Tellier (Madeleine Renaud) taking her girls (whores) to the country for attending her niece's communion, pleasure and purity. And lastly, Jean (Daniel Gélin) the painter falling in love with his model, pleasure and death.Written by
One of Max Ophuls' finest achievements,one of the best Guy de Maupassant adaptations for the screen.
This is a movie made up of three sketches;it is rather a long story (la maison Tellier) framed by one prologue (le masque) an an epilogue (le modèle).Guy de Maupassant is ,by far,the best writer France as ever known,as far short stories are concerned-He wrote about 200 of them,and even influenced Dudley Nichols for the screen play of "stagecoach"(actually ,Claire Trevor was Boule de Suif)
Le plaisir (the pleasure) is something fleeting,but the hero of the prologue(le masque) can't stand life is passing him by.His wife is a victim,women are often sacrified in Maupassant's work.At best they are ways for men to social advancement(Bel Ami,see "the private affairs of Bel-Ami", filmed by Albert Lewin ,1947,watchable,but which has given a totally false rendering of the conclusion),at worst ,once their lover or husband has used them ,they are often deserted (see "une vie" , directed by Alexandre Astruc,1958,which has a fine Claude Renoir cinematography.
"La maison Tellier" is the main body of the work:the subject is scandalous:madam and her whores close the brothel and head for the country.There,they are to attend madam's niece's communion.Max Ophuls has not always been faithfull to Maupassant:if you read the short story,you will realize how much these women are ugly,vulgar and fat;here ,we've got gorgeous Danielle Darrieux,plus Ginette Leclerc and Madeleine Renaud.Ophuls is an esthete and he could not subscribe to Maupassant's depictions.The two men come together when it comes to describe the reactions of the inhabitants of the village:the prostitutes pass for grandes dames,well educated,chic,and when they enter the church,it seems as if they enhance the religious fervor !!Maupassant,who was anticlerical to a fault,lets his irony flow;but there's compassion in Max Ophuls'pictures and I'm not sure the tears his heroines shed are that much laughable:regaining a child's soul -particularly on this communion day- is many a human being's secret longing.But cynism get the upper hand quickly and madam's brother,a bawdy Jean Gabin (the father of the little girl making her communion),is much more interested in his sister's "residents" than spiritual elevation.This second part climaxes the movie,with its steam-powered train,its banquet,its brothel of which the shutter are closed -we're only allowed to have a glimpse behind them-
The movie opens and closes the same way:woman is born to be deserted when she's not a whore,like in the second sketch.Josephine (Simone Simon) will find her lover back but the price she will have to pay is terrifying.
Why "le plaisir" ?Pleasure is few and far between in this world.Pleasure walks hand in hand with suffering.Guy de Maupassant himself knew fleeting pleasures he describes in part 2,but if you read his biography,you 'll meet a tormented soul,an extremely pessimistic mind,and a faux bon vivant who lived a dissipated life which ended in madness.
This is one of the most absorbing,ambitious,complex and artistically successful masterwork of the French fifties.
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