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Film / Le Plaisir

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Le Plaisir (House of Pleasure) is a 1952 film from France directed by Max Ophuls.

It is an anthology of three short stories by Guy de Maupassant. The stories are:

  • "Le Masque" — A man dancing at a nightclub—the "Palais de la dance"—collapses. The doctor who treats him gets a surprise.
  • "La Maison Tellier" — Julia Tellier is a Miss Kitty who keeps a "house", or rather a brothel, in a Norman seaside town. She closes down her brothel because her niece is having her first communion. The madam and her hookers (one is played by Danielle Darrieux) go to the madam's hometown in the country, and stay on the farm of the madam's brother, Joseph (Jean Gabin).
  • "Le Modèle" — A painter, Jean, falls in love with his model, Josephine (Simone Simon). But things go bad.


  • Anthology Film: Three Guy de Maupassant stories.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Josephine follows through on Jean's Suicide Dare but she doesn't die. Instead, the ending reveals that she was left paralyzed, and Jean married her. He then went on to have great success as an artist while caring for Josephine.
    "He found love, glory, and fortune... but my friend, there's no joy in happiness."
  • Born in the Theater: The voice of Guy de Maupassant, narrating, says "I'm delighted to speak to you in the dark as if sitting right beside you."
  • Epic Tracking Shot: Ophuls was known for this. There's a complicated swooping tracking shot when the camera moves around the nightclub in the first story, as the man enters the club and starts dancing, and the doctor is seen in the crowd.
  • Framing Device: The third story has Jean's friend (Jean Servais, who was also the narrator), spotting Jean and Josephine on the beach and telling his companion the story of their relationship.
  • High-Class Glass: The dancer in "Le Masque" has a High-Class Glass—which proves to be a sad detail when the camera finally reveals that he is wearing a mask.
  • Is There a Doctor in the House?: The doctor in "Le Masque" is accosted with the desperate question "Are you a doctor?" after the dancer collapses.
  • Local Hangout: Madame Tellier's brothel is this for the men of the village. When a whole crowd of men find it closed, they have nothing better to do than sit at the pier and watch the surf.
  • Miss Kitty: Julia Tellier, madam of the brothel in the second story. Unlike many instances of this, she was not a working girl herself. On the contrary, she and her late husband started the brothel up because they realized it was more profitable than farming.
  • Narrator: The voice of Guy de Maupassant (provided by Jean Servais) introducing and narrating the stories.
  • Navel-Deep Neckline: Josephine is wearing a skimpy gown cut to the navel as Jean paints her.
  • No Name Given: Two key characters in the stories, the doctor in the first story and Jean's friend in the third story, are not named.
  • Off-into-the-Distance Ending: Two of the three stories end this way. "Le Masque" ends with the doctor's carriage leaving the tenement where the dancer lives. "Le Modèle" ends with Jean, now much older, wheeling a crippled Josephine down the beach.
  • P.O.V. Cam: Seen when Josephine climbs the stairs and flings herself out the window.
  • Suicide Dare: When Josephine tells Jean that she'll kill herself if he doesn't come back to her, he tells her to go ahead, and says she can use the upstairs window. He is shocked when she climbs the stairs and jumps out.
  • Translated Cover Version: At the young girl's communion in "La Maison Tellier", the choir sings "Nearer My God to Thee" with French lyrics.
  • Unproblematic Prostitution: The brothel in "La Maison Tellier" is a village institution and the ladies there seem perfectly happy to be hookers, with the possible exception of Rosa, who is said to drink a lot.