(aka 'House of Pleasure" or "Pleasure')

Directed by Max Ophuls
USA 1952

 

Made after the commercial success of La Ronde, this portmanteau film from director Max Ophuls is an impressively fluid adaptation of three short stories by Guy De Maupassant

Roving with his dazzlingly mobile camera around the decadent ballrooms, bucolic countryside retreats, urban bordellos, and painter's studios of late nineteenth-century French life, Max Ophuls brings his astonishing visual dexterity and storytelling bravura to this triptych of tales by Guy de Maupassant about the limits of spiritual and physical pleasure. Featuring a stunning cast of French stars (including Danielle Darrieux, Jean Gabin, and Simone Simon), Le plaisir pinpoints the cruel ironies and happy compromises of life with a charming and sophisticated breeziness.

Poster

Theatrical Release: February 29th, 1952

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DVD Comparison:

Second Sight Films - Region 2 - PAL vs. Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC

(Second Sight Films - Region 2 - PAL LEFT vs. Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC RIGHT)

DVD Box Cover

   

All 3 Criterion

Ophuls Films/DVD

All 4 Second Sight Ophuls Films/DVD
Distribution Second Sight Films - Region 2 - PAL Criterion Collection - Spine # 444 - Region 1 - NTSC
Runtime 1:33:00 (4% PAL speedup)  1:37:54 
Video 1.33:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.34 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s
1.33:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.85 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:  Second Sight

Bitrate:  Criterion

Audio French (Dolby Digital 2.0)  French (Dolby Digital 1.0) 
Subtitles English, none English, none
Features

Release Information:
Studio: Second Sight Films

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1

Edition Details:

• Featurette: A Journey Through Le Plaisir (54:40)

• Introduction by Todd Haynes (17:40)
• Moments From Le Plaisir (static screen click-thru)
• Featurette From Script to Screen (19:53)

DVD Release Date: September 18th, 2006

Keep Case
Chapters: 16

Release Information:
Studio: Criterion

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1

Edition Details:

• Introduction by filmmaker Todd Haynes (17:40)
• English and German-language versions of the opening narration
• From Script to Screen, a video essay featuring film scholar Jean-Pierre Berthomé discussing the evolution of Max Ophuls’s screenplay for Le plaisir  (19:52)
• Interviews with actor Daniel Gélin, assistant director Tony Aboyantz, and set decorator Robert Christidès
• 18-page liner notes booklet with a new essay by film critic Robin Wood

DVD Release Date: September 16th, 2008

Custom slipcase
Chapters: 21

 

Comments:

ADDITION: Criterion - September 08': I got in some heck from DVD-aficionados that I wasn't critical enough of the Second Sight transfers. To be honest I was more thrilled to own the 4 films on DVD - and the package received numerous DVD of the Year votes in 2006.

The Criterion is pictureboxed transferred (see our full description of 'pictureboxing' in our Kind Hearts and Coronets review) with a black border circumventing the framed image. It looks to have been digitally cleaned and the manipulation of contrast appears to have removed some detail from the image. This appears akin to our comments for Criterion's issue of Keisuke Kinoshita's Twenty Four Eyes. Surprisingly, the PAL image, in this case, may be marginally superior despite its brightness boosting. The Criterion is a shade darker throughout. Contrast may (or may not) lean to Criterion despite the prevalent flickering and muddiness that I noticed. It is heavier than I would like. The NTSC disc seems to show quite a few artifacts as well despite being dual-layered. The Second Sight appears to show a shade more information in the frame - mostly on the right edge. The PAL disc shows a bit more dirt and prominence in light scratches/speckles although I didn't find this intrusive.

Criterion have a clear mono track with optional English subtitles. Although I didn't scrutinize - I didn't notice any prominent differences in the subtitle translations.

In regards to supplements - two are repeated from the Second Sight DVD - the enjoyable and informative Todd Haynes 17 minute introduction and the 20-minute From Script to Screen video essay featuring film scholar Jean-Pierre Berthomé discussing the evolution of Max Ophuls’s screenplay for Le plaisir. Criterion lose the wonderful, 54-minute, A Journey Through le Plaisir. However it gains the English and German-language options of the opening narration. Ophuls recorded two narrations - one in each language - using two of his favorite actors - Peter Ustinov and Anton Walbrook. NOTE: In the 'English' version the dialogue remains in French while in the German version - the entire film is dubbed into German. This is just an excerpt of the opening narration in each language. Nostalgic interviews starting with actor Daniel Gélin (who worked with Hitchcock, Cocteau and Louis Malle) from 1989 by Martina Muller (as are all three interviews). It is 12-minutes long. There is another with assistant director Tony Aboyantz whose first job was working on Le Plaisir - he would later work with Ophuls on Lola Montes. It is 13-minutes long. Lastly we have set decorator Robert Christidès - who worked for over 30-years in that occupation. He has much to share in his 15 minutes with Martina. Criterion include a wonderful 18-page liner notes booklet with photos and a new essay by film, and friend, critic Robin Wood.

I'm content to own both packages and they both have value. The film is a masterpiece of subtleties and although I'm a bit shocked at Criterion's slightly lesser image quality - I doubt many purchasers' systems would identify it to an overly extensive degree. The flickering was a bit off-putting although perhaps this is the best that can be done digitally barring a more advanced restoration.

We will try to review/compare the other two titles in the upcoming days. Stay tuned.    

Gary W. Tooze

***


 

ON THE SECOND SIGHT: This transfer looks very nice - healthy detail and acceptable contrast (there may be some slight boosting, but it is not blanketed and therefore considered a form of restoration).

A Journey Through le Plaisir , almost 1 hour, is a fabulous extra - solid information on both the film and Ophuls - worth the price of the disc alone. Todd Haynes gives another great introduction and there is another featurette - From Script to Screen. Only lacking a commentary this has some substantial extras - very worthwhile viewing in my opinion.

I'm very appreciative that this and the other Ophuls DVDs came out - quality is better than I anticipated and the films are must-owns for serious films fans. We again recommend!  

Gary W. Tooze

 


DVD Menus

 

(Second Sight Films - Region 2 - PAL LEFT vs. Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC RIGHT)


 
 

 


 

Subtitle Sample NOTE: NOT exact frame!

 

(Second Sight Films - Region 2 - PAL TOP vs. Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC BOTTOM)

 

 


 

Screen Captures

 

(Second Sight Films - Region 2 - PAL TOP vs. Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC BOTTOM)

 

 


 

(Second Sight Films - Region 2 - PAL TOP vs. Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC BOTTOM)

 

 


(Second Sight Films - Region 2 - PAL TOP vs. Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC BOTTOM)

 

 


(Second Sight Films - Region 2 - PAL TOP vs. Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC BOTTOM)

 

 


(Second Sight Films - Region 2 - PAL TOP vs. Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC BOTTOM)
 

 

 


(Second Sight Films - Region 2 - PAL TOP vs. Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC BOTTOM)
 

 

 


DVD Box Cover

   

All 3 Criterion

Ophuls Films/DVD

All 4 Second Sight Ophuls Films/DVD
Distribution Second Sight Films - Region 2 - PAL Criterion Collection - Spine # 444 - Region 1 - NTSC




 

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Gary Tooze

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