Le Plaisir. 1952. France. Directed by Max Ophüls. Screenplay by Max Ophüls, Jacques Natanson, based on the stories by Guy de Maupassant. With Claude Dauphin, Gaby Morlay, Madeleine Renaud. 97 min.
The second film Ophüls made upon his return to postwar Europe is a triptych of Maupassant stories, each exposing the dark side of the pursuit of pleasure. Most distinctive for the director’s elaborately choreographed tracking and crane shots (including a vertiginous ball scene that opens the film) and the richly detailed Belle Époque settings, the film is also notable for the tenderness with which the director treats his flawed characters and an attention to female subjectivity, both departures from Maupassant’s cynicism. Yet, at the end of it, the narrator can only profess, “Happiness is no lark.”