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