Blu-Ray Review: Le Plaisir

Director: Max Ophüls
Screenplay: Jacques Natanson, Max Ophüls
Based on Stories by: Guy de Maupassant
Starring: Jean Gabin, Danielle Darrieux, Simone Simon
Country: France
Running Time: 97min
Year: 1952
BBFC Certificate: PG


Max Ophüls is a hugely respected director, but his work isn’t often seen or spoken about these days. I must admit, I’d never watched any of his films before now either. I guess his penchant for what look like grand romantic melodramas didn’t appeal to me, nor to the modern cinephile who tends to lean towards darker, grittier fare. My tastes are broader these days though, so I was keen to take the Ophüls plunge when a screener for Le Plaisir, one of the director’s last few films before his death in 1957.

Le Plaisir translates to ‘the pleasure’, and the film is made up of three stories that each examine different aspects of the sensation. The first sees a masked man burst his way into a dance hall and stiffly, but exuberantly dance around the room, before collapsing. A doctor (Claude Dauphin), on removing his mask, realises he’s actually quite an old man and takes him home to recover, where he finds out about his past through the man’s wife (Gaby Morlay). The second is the longest story of the three, and sees brothel-madam Julie (Madeleine Renaud) take all of her girls on a trip to the country to attend the first communion of her niece. The final short tale sees a painter (Daniel Gélin) fall deeply in love with his model (Simone Simon), then endlessly argue after they move in together. The painter leaves her, but they end up married in the end through tragic circumstances.

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Blindspotting – The Reckless Moment and This Gun For Hire

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I haven’t been on a Film Noir bender in awhile and it’s damn well due. So for my opening salvo in the 2013 Blind Spots, I grabbed a pair of Noirs that I not only felt I should have seen by now, but that I just simply wanted to see right now. I expect from a more mainstream perspective, these two films weren’t exactly gaping holes in my cinematic knowledge, but I’ve been yearning (yes, I said yearning) to see them both. The additional push is that The Reckless Moment is directed by Max Ophuls and he’s a director that I’d like to dig into this year. My only experience with him is the lovely Letter From An Unknown Woman and I’ve cobbled together 3 or 4 of his films on the PVR (oh TCM…you give and you give…), so I’m keen to see more of that constantly moving camera of his. By the way, both of these movies were watched via the PVR, but my capture card is providing horrible resolution on Windows 7 so I’ve borrowed these screenshots from other sites…

Once Noir gets a hold of you, it’s hard to shake. Like an addictive drug, Noir just leads to more Noir. I’m overstating of course, but Noir’s ever-present feeling of doom, its creeping hand of fate and its shafts of light painted with purpose across every inch of the frame lures me in every single time. Even the “lesser” Noirs manage to ensnare me. Not that every Noir is the same, but they share certain characteristics of style tone and theme. Indeed, both The Reckless Moment from 1949 and the earlier by 7 years This Gun For Hire share stylistic touches as well as central male characters who float through their dark lives. Both of these men end up glimpsing some possible redemption through the eyes of a woman (these ladies are not your typical femme fatales even though they may be the “cause” of the male’s downfall) as they accept the fate they always knew was approaching.

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