The Best Old Movies on a Big Screen This Week: NYC Repertory Cinema Picks, July 27-August 2

le plaisir

Le Plaisir (1952)
Directed by Max Ophüls
“I’ve always loved the night and darkness,” admits the narrator of Le Plaisir, but the voice-over (Jean Servais, or, for the Anglophones, Peter Ustinov) is hardly necessary when Ophüls’s camera, that lover of glittering light, is on the scene. Adapting three short stories by French cynic Guy de Maupassant (a reminder that cynicism is sentimentalism, overcooked), Ophüls moves us through a dance floor, around a brothel, into a verdant countryside, and back to Paris, full of broken Roman statues and mirrors ready for a smash. The stories themselves ask less. In the opening “Le Masque,” an old man goes dancing, disguised as a young one. In the longest, middle piece, “La Maison Tellier,” a flock of working girls visit a village and feel renewed. In the concluding “Le Modele,” marriage is a pact between the guilty and the maimed. But Ophüls ennobles the material; those interested in pleasure should watch for the old man’s blank mask peeled off as his evening ends; the lighthouse flickering in darkness as lonely townspeople gather on the shore; one woman’s hat; another man’s cart; and the stairs shakily mounted by a would-be suicide. Elina Mishuris (July 30, 5pm; August 4, 8pm at MoMA’s Gaumont series)


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