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Ma Nuit Chez Maud, 1969
[My Night at Maud's]

Trintignant/FabianJean-Louis (Jean-Louis Trintignant), a devout, unmarried engineer, has a very specific profile in mind for his ideal wife: attractive, blonde, intelligent, and above all, a practicing Catholic. He believes that he has found his soulmate when he spots a young student named Françoise (Marie-Christine Barrault) in a crowded church during Sunday mass, and resolves to make her his wife. He attempts to catch up to Françoise, but loses sight of her behind a slow moving vehicle. One evening, he encounters a childhood friend at a restaurant, a philosophy professor named Vidal (Antoine Vitez), and the two begin to discuss the nature of religion and politics as a logical consequence of Pascal's wager: If a man bets on God's existence, and God does not exist, then a man loses nothing; but if a man bets on God's existence, and God does exist, then his reward is infinite. Vidal is fascinated by the modernism of Pascal's theories - a fusion of religion and mathematics - and believes that the philosophy applies to all aspects of life, even the rise of communism. In contrast, Jean-Louis takes exception to the "severity" of Pascal's theories, but ironically accepts the strict moral code of the Catholic church. Vidal invites Jean-Louis to meet the beautiful, sophisticated Maude (Francoise Fabian), and soon the conversation, once again, turns into a philosophical discussion. Jean-Louis insists that despite youthful indiscretions, he is ready for marriage, and cannot be tempted into having a meaningless affair. However, when Jean-Louis becomes stranded in Maud's house during a snow storm, can he resist her beguiling charm and liberating honesty, and remain "faithful" to Françoise - the "wife" whom he has not met?

Eric Rohmer presents a fascinating, clever, and insightful film on principles, faith, and love in My Night at Maud's, the third film (first full length feature) in Rohmer's remarkable examination of morality in contemporary society, Six Moral Tales. Rohmer abandons reverse angles and panning shots in favor of filming individual characters through extended takes, composed of medium shots. The result is a visual sense of dialogue between the actor and the audience. Note the camera's singular focus on Maud after Vidal leaves. The scene is a subtle reflection of Jean-Pierre's increasing attraction towards the alluring Maud - an attraction that is further validated by their extended conversation, and his continued affection for her after meeting Françoise. My Night at Maud's is a refreshingly simple, witty, yet profound observation on the exhilarating process of love - from the first glance to the destined meeting - and, in between, all the wonderful distractions that momentarily derail its inevitable course.

© Acquarello 2001. All rights reserved.

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Pauline à la plage, 1983
[Pauline at the Beach]

Langlet/DombasleAn attractive young woman named Marion (Arielle Dombasle) has retreated to her brother's house in Normandy for a late summer holiday to await the finalization of her divorce. One day, accompanied by her charming adolescent cousin, Pauline (Amanda Langlet), Marion encounters her former lover, a quiet and pensive young man named Pierre (Pascal Greggory) on the beach, and is introduced to his confident and free-spirited acquaintance, Henri (Feodor Atkine). While spending a quiet evening at home with friends, Marion expresses her romantic ideals of falling in love completely and intensely, a sentiment that encourages Pierre to later reveal his own unrequited feelings for her at a dance hall. But Marion's earlier words prove to be contrary to her actions, as she recoils from Pierre's passionate declaration, rationalizing that such profound emotion, like her impulsive, ill fated marriage, would only lead to an equally disastrous end. Despite better judgment, Marion instead finds herself falling for the cavalier and opportunistic Henri. However, as Marion needlessly attempts to conceal her relationship with Henri from Pierre, and Henri, in turn, continues to flout his affair with Marion by seducing a candy vendor (Rosette), the perceptive Pauline becomes an ambivalent and puzzled witness to the irrationality of adult relationships.

Pauline at the Beach is a witty, unassuming, and acutely observant film on the inconstancy of human relationships and the dilemma of adolescent sexuality. The film is the third installment in Eric Rohmer's Comedies and Proverbs, a series of six films that wryly, but compassionately, examine the moral ambiguity and conflicted guidance of young people in contemporary society. By exposing the hypocrisy and duplicity of the adults in Pauline's life, Rohmer exposes the pervasive narcissism and selfishness of the older generation that invariably reflect in the young heroine's uncertainty over the direction of her own emotional maturity. As Pauline finds herself abandoned by the capricious Marion alone on the beach, she is literally pulled into the conflicting moral attitudes of Pierre and Henri, as her entrusted care becomes a source of animosity between the two men. Inevitably, neither ideology can reconcile Pauline's awkward and uncertain transition into the social interactions of the adult world.

© Acquarello 2001. All rights reserved.

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