Archive for Le Plaisir


Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on February 22, 2013 by dcairns

Natan – Trailer from screenworksfilmandtv on Vimeo.

My colleague Paul Duane has cut together a teaser trailer for our film NATAN — this may raise more questions than it answers…. it’s supposed to.

The voice-over comes from the beginning of the film. I wanted something that lent immediacy to this story from the 30s, and was influenced by the intimacy of William Holden’s narration in SUNSET BLVD and Jean Servais’ performance as the off-screen voice of Maupassant in Ophuls’ LE PLAISIR. I always got a chill when he says he decided to tell us his stories as if he were sitting next to us in the dark…

It was 4am on a freezing Dublin night. I’m habitually insomniac anywhere other than my own bed, so in spite of the world’s most powerful duvet, I was wide awake. Nocturnal thoughts during this period are normally quite useless, but on this occasion a strange set of phrases started circling in my mind, eventually joining together to form the speech you hear. It was sort of like an aspirin dissolving in reverse: fragments assembled themselves magically.

At 2am the same night, Eoin McDonaugh, our editor, was also having trouble sleeping. He came up with a second bit of voice-over. When we met up the next morning — the two pieces fit.


The Prussians are Coming!

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 15, 2011 by dcairns

MADEMOISELLE FIFI, with Simone Simon.

Guy de Maupassant is a fave of mine, although I’ve only read his short stories, not his novels. Among these morally complex, twisted works, are a few atypically simplistic propaganda-type pieces dealing with the Franco-Prussian war, one of which, Mademoiselle Fifi, became half of a fine Val Lewton/Robert Wise drama at RKO. The other half of that movie was based on the considerably more complex Boule de Suif, in which the Prussians may be brutes and tyrants but the French are self-centred snobs and hypocrites. Lewton skillfully uses the simple story to counteract some of the anti-propagandistic aspects of the complex one, so as to wind up with a film that could be released in wartime without drawing accusations of giving succour to the enemy.

This week’s edition of the Forgotten, over at the Daily Notebook, looks at PYSHKA, the last silent movie made in the USSR, and a much more faithful, hard-line version of Boule de Suif. I suspect you’ll find the images there most bracing.


Three facts about Guy de Maupassant which I carry in my mind:

One day while swimming he saved the poet Swinburne from drowning. As a reward, Swinburne gave him an ashtray made from a human hand, and this formed the inspiration for Maupassant’s first published story, The Hand, a creepy and hilarious thunderstorming mystery.

Maupassant liked to paint fake syphilis sores on his erection and chase his mistress round the room with it. What a card!

Contracting the disease for real, GdM wound up dying, blind and insane in the asylum. Towards the end, he was convinced there were diamonds in his urine.

Asides from the films cited above, the movie most alive to the spirit of Maupassant is perhaps Ophuls’ LE PLAISIR. Interesting how the marvelous overcast skies of PYSKHA (that amazing combo of heavy clouds and bright sunshine blasting in from the horizon line) followed Ophuls around and crept into his last shot.

LE PLAISIR, with Simone Simon again.

If the weather had been different that day, all cinema would be changed. For me, anyway.

UK: Le Plaisir [DVD]

US: Le Plaisir

Max Ophuls Collection: Letter From An Unknown Woman (1948), Earrings Of Madame De.. (1953) + Le Plaisir (1952)