A movie log formerly known as Bookishness / By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Saturday, January 2, 2016

My Night at Maud's (Éric Rohmer, 1969)

A moral tale: Once upon a time, a brave and chaste knight saw a fair young lady in church, and wished that she were his. The devil, hearing this, arranged for the knight to be tempted by a beautiful sorceress. But when the knight resisted the carnal temptations of the sorceress, he was rewarded with the love and the hand of the fair young lady. Éric Rohmer's moral tale: Jean-Louis (Jean-Louis Trintignant), an engineer who has recently moved to Clermont-Ferrand, is an intellectual Catholic, determined at the age of 34 to settle down and get married after several failed love affairs. At mass one day he sees a beautiful young woman (Marie-Christine Barrault), and longs to get to know her. Leaving the church, he sees the woman get on a moped, and he follows her in his car until they are separated by traffic. Jean-Louis runs into an old friend, Vidal (Antoine Vitez), a philosophy professor and a Marxist, who takes him to see his friend, Maud (Françoise Fabian), a divorcee. Vidal gets drunk and leaves early, and when it begins to snow heavily, Jean-Louis stays to spend the night with Maud. But they do little more than talk -- about his Catholicism, about the philosophy of Pascal, about his life and hers. She and her husband were unfaithful to each other, and her lover was killed when his car skidded on the ice -- one reason she forbids Jean-Louis to drive in the snow. They literally sleep together: She in the nude, he fully clothed and wrapped in a coverlet she lends him, though both are in the same bed. In the morning he makes a pass at her that she brushes off, and as he looks out the window he sees the young woman he saw at mass, and runs out to introduce himself to her. Her name is Françoise, and she is a student at the university where Vidal teaches. They make a date for later in the day, and afterward he drives her home to her student apartment. Stuck in the snow again, he spends the night, but not in her room: She gives him a key to the apartment of another student who is away. Five years later, they are married and taking their young son to the beach, when they meet Maud on the path. Jean-Louis realizes from Françoise's reaction that she knows Maud -- in fact, Françoise, who has confessed that she had an affair with a married man, may have been the lover of Maud's husband. This is the third of Rohmer's "Six Moral Tales," and perhaps the most successful: It was nominated for Oscars for Rohmer's screenplay and as the best foreign-language film. But a lot of critics and viewers found it insufferably talky in that peculiarly French over-intellectualized way -- a curious objection to a film that features four attractive actors and a strong emphasis on sex. And the talk is far wittier than anything you're likely to hear in a movie today.

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