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Three stories about pleasure. The first one is about a man hiding his age behind a mask to keep going to balls and fancying women, pleasure and youth. Then comes the long tale of Julia Tellier (Madeleine Renaud) taking her girls (whores) to the country for attending her niece's communion, pleasure and purity. And lastly, Jean (Daniel Gélin) the painter falling in love with his model, pleasure and death.Written by
Max Ophuls is rightly regarded as a major filmmaker and this is a major work. If you'd heard of his fluid camera-work but hadn't seen a film bearing his signature this film would illustrate perfectly what people mean by his fluid camera-work. In 1952 the portmanteau film was hardly new; in England we had seen both Quartet and Trio (a joke in the early fifties had two hippies walking down Broadway and passing in turn cinemas where these titles were playing: One says 'Man, we better dig this crazy combo, it's fading fast') followed by Encore, all featuring short stories by Somerset Maugham but it's fair to say that all three lacked the visual style and sheer sumptuousness that Ophuls brings to DeMaupassant. Framed by The Mask and The Model the piece de resistance is The House of Madame Tellier, a four-reel examination of the role of the bordel in the provincial town - when they close for a day the whole sub-social life of the town is disturbed. If the lion's share of the plaudits go to the middle segment the others have more than their own individual moments and staples of French cinema like Jean Gabin, Danielle Darrieux and Simone Simon get to strut their stuff and pay their dues. A visual delight.
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