Sunday night cinema: Le Cinéclub: The Film Society presents Le Plaisir by Max Ophuls

A scene from the film Le Plaisir (Pleasure) by Max Ophuls.
A scene from the film Le Plaisir (Pleasure) by Max Ophuls.

The raison d’être of Le Cinéclub: The Film Society is to give people the chance to watch worthy films in their original film format, that is, not via DVD. This is not something average film fans can do at home, no matter how wonderful their setup might be.

Tonight’s presentation is Le Plaisir (Pleasure) by Max Ophuls. It’s a 1952 film in three parts, (Le Masque, La Maison Tellier, Le Modèle) all based on short stories by Guy de Maupassant about men, women and their pursuit of pleasure. Jean Servais provides narration as the voice of de Maupassant. It’s in French with English subtitles. More details about the plots can be found on the Facebook page for the screening of Le Plaisir.
The Harvard Film Archive says: “Max Ophuls (1902-1957) was a supreme stylist of the cinema and a master storyteller of romance, doomed love and sexual passion. Fusing the subject of his stories with his endlessly mobile camera, he choreographed emotion, overflowing into ecstatic and extended moments that merge images of desire with desire for cinema.”

Ophuls is known for his fluid camera movement, as pointed out by Noel Murray of the AV Club who decribes the filmmakers work this way:
“short, expertly crafted scenes, in which the actors dwelled on the comic subtleties of human interaction while Ophüls moved the camera around them at odd angles, like an eavesdropper craning his neck to take it all in.”

On the review site DVD Verdict, Daryl Loomis says: “Le Plaisir is beautifully shot by Ophuls with attention to fine details. The film is packed with sweeping tracking shots and constantly changing perspectives. The lighting and camera shots are often put at opposing angles, adding to Joe Hajos already delirious music. With strong performances all around and a great sense of style, Le Plaisir is a true pleasure to watch.”

The Criterion Collection has made a DVD of the film; people who cannot attend the screening might check that out. Those who do go, and like the film, could buy it for repeat viewing. Many reviews of Le Plaisir refer to that Criterion DVD, like this one, by V.F. Perkins in Film Quarterly and this one, by Fernando Croce in Slant Magazine. This essay by Robin Wood, appears on the Criterion Collection web site. Reading them in advance will prompt viewers to be on the alert for various events and film techniques, but those who dislike “spoilers” are advised to read them after watching the film.

LE PLAISIR (Pleasure) 1952, France, 97 min. French with English subtitles) directed Max Ophuls
With Claude Dauphin, Gaby Morlay, Madelaine Renaud, Ginette Leclerc, Danielle Darrieux, Pierre Brasseur, Jean Servais and Jean Gabin.
A short film by Georges Franju will be shown before Le Plaisir
Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015 AT 6:30 p.m.
Cinéma VA-114 of Concordia University, 1395 René-Lévesque Blvd. W. (metro Lucien l’Allier, metro Guy)
General admission: $8, students and seniors (65+) $6

See Facebook for more information.

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