Happiness is not a lark
Happiness, says the narrator at the end, is not a lark. And the film believes it, even though as he speaks the glimpses of children playing with kites and daintily placed chairs on the beach (echoing those set out earlier by Gabin in the back of his cart for the visiting prostitutes) continue to evoke the swirling compositional grace and elegance which mark the film's every moment. Far more unpredictable and radical than most portmanteau films, the highlight is the second story, which at first seems to be about a group of men who get together one night when the local brothel is closed, then follows the whores' trip to the country (with a delightful interlude on the train as they share the compartment with an old peasant couple and a randy salesman); then returns to the brothel - Ophuls' highly liberal camera ultimately pans deliriously around the windows from the outside as the place fills with dance, spilling celebration and delight. The many surprises of that story perfectly evoke the enormous span of human emotional experience; it touches on so many dreams of escape whereas the other two episodes, both much shorter and darker, remind us of the occasional price of such dreams.
- Oct 19, 1999
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