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I just love this quote from Le Plaisir:
- He found love, glory and fortune. Isn't that happiness?
- Still it's very sad.
- But, my friend, happiness is not a joyful thing.
The movie is very good and absolutely beautiful to look at, but Thorkell is right: That last line absolutely made the film for me.
Maupassant was one of those authors whose work was mandatory reading when I was in high school, and who I never truly appreciated. Short stories about 19th-Century mores, suffering, irony... No teacher ever made the adolescent me connect with the material. In Le plaisir (Pleasure), Max Ophüls has Maupassant's voice take us through three of his stories, bookending the longest with short tales though that middle part could have been its own film. And so the meat of the movie is about a bordelo's entire staff going to the country on vacation, and it's quite charming and understated. I could have spent the entire runtime with these ladies of the night. The first story is probably the weakest, as it's over by the time it's started, but the last one, about a couple who find happiness but not joy in their marriage seems to me perfect cynical Maupassant, and in that feeling, I find an adult capacity to relate to his work that I didn't always have. Of course, Ophüls has something to do with it. I find in this director a subversive ability to break the rules without you noticing. A narrator who takes another character's voice; a camera set up in the wrong place, hiding the action, but revealing the characters; anthologizing of unrelated stories to create new connections... The direction doesn't often call attention to itself, but look at it from a student of cinema perspective, and it's more interesting than the stories themselves.
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In 6 official lists
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This movie ranks #17 in Stanley Kubrick, Cinephile
This movie ranks #34 in Cahiers du Cinéma's 100 Films for an Ideal Cinematheque
This movie ranks #87 in Time Out's The 100 Best French Films
This movie ranks #345 in Sight & Sound's The Greatest Films of All Time
This movie ranks #455 in TSPDT's 1,000 Greatest Films
This movie ranks #468 in The Criterion Collection