Le Plaisir (1951, Max Ophuls)

“Still, it’s very sad.”
“But, my friend, happiness is not a joyful thing.”

Three filmed short stories by Guy de Maupassant, reminding me of Quartet. It wasn’t great and made me not want to seek out any of the author’s books… there it also reminds me of Quartet. Not narrated by the author like Quartet was, since the author is dead, but rather by a sort of author character who shows up as an active participant (the artist’s friend) in part 3.

So, Lola Montes and La Ronde, and even Letter From An Unknown Woman would have been wonderful, but I chose to show Katy Le Plaisir instead and now she thinks I enjoy stodgy period pieces. Sure it had some sparks of life in it, but even the documentary extras on the DVD wanted to talk up the difficulty in finding locations and in making the film rather than giving a reason why people seem to like it. Stanley Kubrick once called it his favorite film, so surely there’s something there.

Movie starts out weird, kicking it into high gear with a creepy-looking masked man dancing gaily at a fancy ball, then quickly passing out. It is discovered that he’s an old man trying badly to recapture his youth and hit on young girls, to his wife’s patient dismay.

Centerpiece segment seems like it wanted to be the entire movie, but wasn’t quite long enough so they tacked on the other two bits… it must be over an hour long, about a whorehouse that the camera can never bring itself to go inside. Fortunately, the whores all come outside, closing up shop to take a trip to the country for an unexpectedly moving wedding, before returning home to the glee of the townsfolk.

Last bit, a model and artist fall for each other, but when things get rough and he might leave her, she tries to kill herself… they end up together forever, she in a wheelchair.

Haven’t seen a Max Ophuls movie yet that takes place in modern day… guy liked to create ornate depictions of times past. Some fantastic shots made the whole thing worth watching, incl. the artist meeting the model in the start of segment 3, and her suicide later, which switches fluidly from an objective to a subjective camera, climbs the stairs with her shadow cast before us then crashes through the window and down.

I am so bad at recognizing people, because Simone Simon played the model and I didn’t know it. Jean Gabin was unmissable as the friend/host in the country in the middle segment at least. Claude Dauphin (President of Earth in Barbarella) was the doctor in the first segment.