Saturday, June 9, 2007

My Night at Maud's (1969)

Directed by Eric Rohmer. Starring Jean-Louis Trintignant, Marie-Christine Barrault, and Francoise Fabian.

The films of Eric Rohmer are an acquired taste, to say the least. Some find him a minor talent at best, favoring long conversations over visual flair or intricate narratives, but I think that his best films cleanse the palate of big-budget bloat or show-offy technique. This film, my favorite of his (though CLAIRE'S KNEE and THE AVIATOR'S WIFE come close) centers around a few days in the life of a serious young man (Trintignant), after he falls in love with a girl he sees in church (Barrault). The centerpiece of the film is an all-night bull session with Maud (Fabian), the lover of an old friend. During this sequence, which takes up at least half the film's running time, the two discuss everything from love to Pascal to Catholic dogma, which turns out to be a kind of verbal seduction without the traditional payoff, and what makes this sequence wondrous is not only how long Rohmer sustains it, but also how the characters repeatedly surprise themselves (and us) with what they have to say.

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