Le plaisir (1952)

I don’t often rewatch a film the day after I first saw it, but I felt I should in this case, cos I watched Le plaisir last night and got the impression once it was over that I should give it a go again with the DVD commentary this time. I have the Madman DVD with Adrian Martin talking, which I knew would be a good thing (his heroic effort commenting on The Loyal 47 Ronin for three and a half hours proves Madman are right to get him on board as often as possible), and so it was… My only prior experience of Max Ophüls’ work was La signora di tutti, which I saw at the Sydney Film Festival about ten years ago, and I recall being not blown away by it; but obviously I know what an amazing reputation he has, so wanted to explore further. And I knew of his evident fondness for long takes and epic camera movements, and on that level Le plaisir certainly didn’t disappoint me. But was there more to it than just the unquestionably lovely surface, the baroque architecture and frames-within-frames compositions, the delightfully fluid camerawork (as I discovered, Kubrick’s avowed love of the film extended to nicking one shot for A Clockwork Orange; curious that I can’t recall having ever seen this addressed elsewhere), and so forth? The first viewing hadn’t quite convinced me… fortunately the second viewing with commentary did. I picked up a few details—not entirely small ones, too—that I’d missed first time round, but Adrian Martin’s commentary made a persuasive argument that there’s more depth to the film below its admitted artifice than I may have credited it with last night, and that the “pleasure” of the title is hardly an unmixed quantity. Don’t know if I’m still 100% convinced by the film, but at least now I have a better appreciation of the intent behind it…

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