"Le Plaisir (1952) is not the best of the three Max Ophüls classics Criterion is releasing today," begins Dave Kehr in the New York Times: "that would be The Earrings of Madame de... (1953), one of the greatest films ever made, and one of the most written about." Just as an example, when it screened for two weeks at Film Forum in March 07, we gathered the rapturous reviews here.
"The titular jewels of The Earrings of Madame de... provide not just the axis around which the film's elegantly darkening roundelay turns, but also a telling stand-in for the essence of Max Ophüls's art - an object of glittering surfaces which, through an astounding accumulation of passion, comes to embody devastating depths of feeling," writes Fernando F Croce in Slant. As for Criterion's release, it's a "majestic package fit for the film that would make Pauline Kael and Andrew Sarris swoon in unison."
DVD Beaver Gary W Tooze marvels at the bountiful extras: "What a package, what a film - strongly recommended!"
Again, Fernando F Croce: "The beauty and Mozartian sense of visual musicality of his work enhance rather than detract from Ophüls's toughness, for, beneath the velvety suavity, the director's worldview could be as bleak, savage even, as those of fellow Teutonic masters Von Stroheim, Lang, Wilder and Preminger." On Le Plaisir: "Often palmed off as a minor work sandwiched between the clarity of theme of La Ronde (which critic Robin Wood correctly tagged a 'thesis' work) and the fullness of expression of The Earrings of Madame de..., it's nothing short of brutal when it comes to depicting the human desperation of glittering surfaces."
And back to Dave Kehr: "The frenzied resistance to the passage of time dramatized in the opening sequence gradually modulates into the becalmed, mature acceptance of the concluding episode: the essential theme of this great artist, here expressed with devastating purity."
"No other director has so touchingly conveyed the exquisite social graces that arise from the pursuit of animal lust," adds Richard Brody in the New Yorker.
"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," writes Gary W Tooze. "The flickering was a bit off-putting although perhaps this is the best that can be done digitally barring a more advanced restoration."
Now to Dan Callahan in Slant, who takes on La Ronde, "based on Arthur Schnitzler's cynical, sexual fin de siècle play.... Ophüls is never jaded, or cynical, as Schnitzler often is; he's a true romantic, and he covers a huge range of male and female types in La Ronde, from Fernand Gravey's formidable, hypocritical husband to Odette Joyeux's malleable gal, who cries,'Oh, that naughty champagne! The things it made me do!' after a lascivious private dinner." He regards Criterion's release as a "somewhat disappointing package of a truly lovely film."
La Ronde is "a tasty little pleasure," writes James S Rich at DVD Talk. "A social drama that lightly steps across class boundaries to look at the bedroom antics of a variety of characters, taking in both comic and tragic details at the same time. Max Ophüls's return to French cinema is a marvel of structure and design, its circular storytelling and creative eye breaking boundaries in entertaining, intriguing ways."
"I can't say I'm overwhelmed with the image quality but feel fully sated by the fantastic extra features which lean this toward being an essential DVD buoyed by the brilliance of the film," writes Gary W Tooze.
Bookmark/Search this post with: