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Monday, April 13, 2009

LE PLAISIR (1952)


The great Mozart biographer Alfred Einstein famously noted that in his late works 'Mozart's simplest chord progressions become filled with grace, beauty & wisdom.' Much the same might be said of Max Ophuls’ late period; four masterpieces made when he returned to Europe after WWII. LE PLAISIR is the modest charmer of the quartet, but no less worthy for its intimate nature. Three Guy de Maupassant stories, THE MASK, LE MAISON TELLIER and THE MODEL, take us to a ball, a first communion and a love affair gone bad with Ophuls holding everything together with his signature long takes and fluid camera work, to say nothing of the pitch-perfect casting & decor. Less commonly noted is his sobering emphasis on the passage of time, and how it keeps us from getting too firm a hold on things. Working in so many countries & in so many languages as the great political upheavals of the mid-twentieth century buffeted him, it was a theme of great personal import to Ophuls . . . and, when presented in such a manner, to us as well.

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