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Pleasure Party

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    Ian Jane
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  • Pleasure Party

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    Released by: Pathfinder Pictures
    Released on: 3/2/2004
    Director: Claude Chabrol
    Cast: Paul Gegauff, Danielle Gegauff, Paula Moore, Michele Valette
    Year: 1975
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    The Movie:

    Phillipe (Paul Gegauff, who also wrote the film) and Esther (Danielle Gegauff wife) live together with their young daughter, Elsie (Clemance Gegauff). Paul is a charmer, but is also more than just a little bit of a control freak. He doesn't think twice about degrading his wife in public or in private, and in fact he seems to take great delight in doing so. They have what appears to be a happy relationship though, and a very open one at that.

    The two of them regularly host grand house parties at their home, with plenty of upper class guests in attendance. One night Esther should sleep with another man, but not hold any details from him. He figures this will spice up their love life and keep things fresh. What Paul soon begins to realize however is that once Esther sleeps with a party guest named Habib (Giancarlo Sisti of Death Laid An Egg), she becomes quite liberated by the experience, and Paul soon becomes enraged with typical jealousy.

    Paul moves the family off to the city, away from the country house where this all took place. His marriage now very much on the rocks, he resorts to even more humiliation tactics against his wife, hoping to drive her independent streak into the dirt and thus make himself an important part of her life again.

    Made the same year as the far superior Innocents With Dirty Hands, Chabrol's Pleasure Party is an interesting film that tries just a little too hard for its own good, and it is also rather predictable. If you're familiar with his bourgeoisie dramas/thrillers, you know as soon as the affair begins that it's going to end badly for Paul. In Chabrol's films, pride and greed is always the downfall of his wealthy characters. It builds very nicely, in that cold and calculated way that Charol is known for, but without the element of mystery that so many of his classic films have, Pleasure Party just isn't as interesting as his other movies. The characters are also rather unsympathetic and while that may be sadly realistic, it does make it hard to feel sorry for the majority of the people we're watching in the movie.

    The film isn't without its merits, however. The cinematography by regular Chabrol collaborator Jean Rabier is excellent and quite evocative of the mood that the filmmakers were obviously trying to not only create but also maintain throughout. Performances are quite good and pretty believable, just not particularly sympathetic.

    The non-anamorphic 1.66.1 widescreen transfer appears to be slightly cropped if the credits are to be trusted. Aside from that, there is some mild print damage and grain throughout and there are a couple of scenes that are a bit too dark looking for their own good. Overall though, there's a reasonable level of detail present and edge enhancement is minimal. The picture quality is okay, just not great.

    The French Dolby Digital Mono mix has removable English subtitles that are easy to read and free of any typos. It's a clean track that's easy to follow and understand without any serious hiss or distortion problems. An optional Spanish language track is also included (though watching a Chabrol film in Spanish just seems… weird).

    Dan Yakir and Ric Menello provide an interesting commentary track that provides some interesting background information on the film as well as some insight into how this film fits in with the rest of his work. It is quite informative and worth listening to. The pair never has a problem finding anything to talk about and there aren't any prolonged periods of awkward silence or particularly slow parts on this track. They explain some of the more unusual choices in regards to the film's cinematography, as well as some of the obvious and less obvious instances where symbolism comes into play.

    There is also an audio interview that Yakir conducted with Chabrol in 1977, presented with subtitles set against a slow moving slideshow of images from the director's career. The director gives his thoughts on world cinema, his work, and the themes that many of his films share.

    Finally, there are the usual text bios, a still gallery, and some brief production notes.

    The Final Word:

    The Pleasure Party isn't Chabrol's best film but it is still a solid and curious entry in what is essentially an outstanding body of work. Pathfinder's presentation is solid though could have benefited from better video quality. The extras are interesting and the film is well worth checking out, even if it is rather flawed.
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