woman relaxing

Pleasure: Happiness is not joyful

Pleasure is a French film directed by German director Max Ophuls. This film is from his French period, since I also make films in the United States and in his native country. This film is based on three stories by the formidable French writer, Guy de Maupassant. Pleasure  investigates through its three stories, the price that the human being pays when he gives himself body and soul to his lowest desires. Pleasure is without a doubt one of the most revolutionary cinematographic works in the history of the seventh art. Ophüls’ masterful direction, plus the brilliant adaptation of Maupassant’s tales, make The Pleasure a filmic miracle in itself.

The pleasure stars Gaby Morlay, Madeleine Renaud, Danielle Darrieux, Jean Gabin and Simone Simon, among others. The film was released on February 29, 1952 in France.

Synopsis of ‘El placer’

Nominated for an Oscar for Best Art Direction and directed by Max Ophüls (“ The Round ”), based on three stories by Guy de Maupassant. With a cast led by Jean Gabin (” When the day woke up “), Danielle Darrieux (” Madame de…”) and Simone Simon (” The Panther Woman “). A film admired by directors like Bernardo Bertolucci or Stanley Kubrick and considered one of the most beautiful adaptations ever made of a literary text to the cinema screen.

The different faces of pleasure seen through three stories. “The Mask” tells the story of a man who hides his identity under a mask to maintain his status in the game and with women. “The Tellier House” narrates the trip to the field of the madam of a dating house, with her pupils, to attend the communion of her nephew. Finally, “The Model” is about a painter who seduces a young woman to become her artistic muse. ( FILMIN )

Pleasure and old age

The pleasure begins with a fade to black, in which we hear the voice of Jean Servais addressing the audience, as if it were Maupassant himself. This technical resource that Ophüls makes use of, makes the film from minute one acquire an intimate and close atmosphere towards the viewer, as if it were a slight whisper.

This first story is based on Maupassant’s story entitled “The mask”. The story begins with a great general shot, in which we see that a great dance is taking place. The camera moves to the rhythm of the crowd, until suddenly he meets an outlandish man with a mustache. The camera follows in a majestic manner, the hectic dance-like movements of this mysterious man. During this first story, we see one of the best shots ever made in the history of cinema. Suddenly we see how the camera rotates in circles at the same time as the man, it is a kind of festive delirium.

This charismatic young man, full film of vitality, turns out to be actually the opposite of his appearance. After the man fell passed out, it is when they realize that he is wearing a mask. When assisted by a doctor who is responsible for removing the mask that is suffocating him, he discovers that he is actually an old man.

This shocking and heartbreaking story represents the ravages of old age in relation to pleasure. The protagonist was a true heartthrob in his youth, who now, because of his old age, is unable to enjoy these pleasures. The mask is a metaphor for the figurative and literal suffocation that this character is experiencing. This man longs to retain that carnal pleasure in his life, even if he has to pay a price for it.

Pleasure and purity

This second story is based on Maupassant’s short story, “The Tellier House”. It tells us about life in a lupanar, in a small town in Normandy. Doing another superb handling of the camera, Ophüls shows us the different parts of the lupanar, from outside the windows. The director is able to show all the action that is being witnessed at that moment, with subtle camera movements.

The plot of The Pleasure kicks off when regular customers at Lupanar realize that it is closed. It is a very comical moment in the film, as these men show some confusion and anger at such a fact. In the end they discover that the reason for the closure was due to the fact that the Madame had to attend the communion of her niece.

From that moment, we are participants in the beautiful journey that the Madame and the prostitutes undertake, to attend this event. No one in the history of cinema has shown the role of prostitutes with such humanity and purity, as Ophüls does in this film. It gives you the feeling of watching “Little Women”. Women full of purity and dignity who walk with pride through life.  Normally these types of characters are usually represented from a vulgar and erotic approach. Instead, this tape gives you the impression of seeing women who are treated as people, and not as cattle.

One of the most important characters in this second story is the Madame’s brother, played by the great Jean Gabin. The story reaches its climax, when the character of Jean Gabin tries to act inappropriately with one of the prostitutes. This represents the desire for change of this man, who is immersed in a marriage devoid of emotion and passion.

The most memorable scene in this chapter of Pleasure takes place when communion is being celebrated within the parish. A truly religious and emotional experience, where we see the most human face of this group of women.

Pleasure and death

This third and last story is based on the story entitled “The Model” by Maupassant. In it we are told the love story between a young painter and a young model. At the beginning of the relationship, we see the happiness that overflows in the two protagonists because of the love they process. As time goes by, the relationship fades to the point of being two strangers to each other.

One of the most disturbing scenes in the entire movie is the scene where a great couple discussion takes place between them. It is the turning point of their relationship, something that has been slowly consumed and that one day has been blown up. This scene is really shocking, which ends when the two break a glass at the same time, and are reflected at the same time in it.

After this violent event, the young painter decides to break with the model by going to live in a friend’s house. The woman runs in search of him, in order to save her relationship with him. The woman, realizing that her beloved no longer loves her, enters a state of absolute madness when she tries to commit suicide by jumping from a window. Throughout this criticism, the director’s technical feat has been named on countless occasions, but if one of them were to be retained, it would be the one performed in this scene.Using a subjective shot, we see how the camera shows us the fateful vision of the protagonist. Throughout this shot, we see how the woman climbs the stairs, opens the window and then falls into the void. The camera literally falls, slamming into what appears to be a greenhouse.


It is difficult to put into words all the virtues that this masterpiece has. It feels like the camera is floating at all times in the footage. Other technical aspects such as the wonderful artistic direction or the great soundtrack are also worth noting. Pleasure  is a work that reflects how the lowest instincts of the human being, can blind us to such an extent, of being unable to really know what will make us happy.

To end the criticism of this film, there is no better way than recounting the grand finale of it. At the end of the last story, the young painter, driven by a certain compassion for the young woman, finally decides to marry her.

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