Le Plaisir (1952)

Le Plaisir (1952), directed by Max Ophüls.

"House of Pleasure".

Three stories by de Maupassant, which I think was a wise choice. Ophüls' films sometimes suffered from weak scripts. The Earrings of Madame de... (1953) was good, but Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948) was not very strong, and in Caught (1949) a good cast -- James Mason, Barbara Bel Geddes, Robert Ryan -- were wasted on a trivial story.

But here he relies on a master storyteller with good results:

Le Masque

In a nightclub packed with interior windows the camera pans and tilts with the dizzy night life. An old man tries to regain his youth by putting on a mask and dancing until he drops.

La Maison Tellier

The longest and best segment. The friendly village bordello is more than a sex shop: it is a second home and community center for the men. The women working there have "roles" they put on, like actresses.

One evening the patrons find the lights are out and the doors locked. Shock and consternation! What has happened to them? The morose men collect and begin bickering.

As it turns out: Madame has taken all her people on the train to attend her niece's First Communion in another village. A vacation for the sex workers! They are well received and everyone has a good time.

Danielle Darrieux (The Rage of Paris (1938), 5 Fingers (1952), The Earrings of Madame de... (1953)) is one of the prostitutes, and Jean Gabin (Grand Illusion (1937)) is their host who becomes smitten with her.

Le Modèle

The tempestuous relation between an artist and his model, Simone Simon (Cat People (1942), The Curse of the Cat People (1944)).

Available on DVD from Criterion.