Pleasure Party directed by French filmmaker Claude Chabrol is another of his perceptive and tough bourgeois crime tales.
The film stars Paul Gégauff as Philippe a sweet talking but cruel and egotistical man who belittles his mouse-like docile wife Esther (Danièle Gegauff) every chance he gets. One evening before one of the house parties they hold in their country home Philippe encourages his wife to sleep with another man. She takes him up on it and from that moment she begins to be an independent minded woman; a fact that drives him crazy.
When they move to the city Esther becomes even more independent and Philippe is faced with a crumbling marriage, which he basically encouraged in the first place. And in time he finds ways to embarrass, belittle and beat her until she is dependent again.
The film was directed in 1975 just after Chabrol's strongest period, which included such films as La Boucher, Le Biches, This Man Must Die and La Rupture (all of which are available on DVD from Pathfinder). And while this one is not as good as those films it is still a worthy film about the anguish that the bourgeois bring on themselves as well as a comment on the primitive nature of violence that lurks under the perfect bourgeois veneer.
Pleasure Party ('Une partie de plaisir' in French) is often a tough film to watch because it is fairly easy to see where it is going and what will happen. And this being a Chabrol film each scene builds toward the crime with the precision of a metronome. It is also difficult to associate with any of the characters. In a good number of Chabrol films [he's directed over 70 films] there is at least one likable character who we can connect with on some level. In this film the only thing to connect with is the filmmaker and his style – all if which is good but not enough to make the film entirely enjoyable or satisfying. Maybe that's the point – you be the judge.