Roger Ebert in his review of the movie, says that the movie is for people who still read good novels, care about good films and think occasionally. I would add, the movie is for people who can observe the underlying currents of life, people who are moved by subtleties, and people who know why poetry exists. Eric Rohmer is really a composer of a poem – the whole movie being a single poem – where scenes are like word play that a poet constructs and the meaning of the poem is not defined by the plot twists but observing the unobserved behind the mundane.
Jerome, a difficult role performed adroitly by Jean-Claude Brialy, is a career diplomat who is visiting Lake Annecy for a brief interlude before the execution of a major life event – his marriage. He meets – purely by chance – his old flame and a close friend Aurora, an author. Through her, Jerome gets introduced to the family of Madame Walter and her two daughters, Laura and Claire. Laura, 16, is smitten by Jerome, and Aurora observes it. She treats it as a story being developed and challenges Jerome to play along. Jerome does – observing all the limits of morality and decency. But Jerome himself is smitten by something else – Claire’s knee. It is his objective to caress Claire’s knee.
I thought to myself that every woman has her most vulnerable point. For some, it’s the nape of the neck, the waist, the hands. For Claire, in that position, in that light, it was her knee. It was the magnetic pole of my desire, the precise point where, if I could pursue this desire, I’d have placed my hand. And right there is where her boyfriend had his hand. In all his innocence and insipidness. That hand was above all insipid, and that shocked me.
Claire is not the least interested in an elderly Jerome and treats him worse than a piece of furniture.
As you can guess, the plot is non existent, just like most Rohmer movies. What flows though is the character development – especially the young Laura. The interactions between her and Jerome are worth watching on big screen. Beatrice Romand, who plays Laura, is an amazing actress and manifests every emotion that Rohmer possibly had in his mind.
Rohmer plays with the questions of love, lust, fidelity, friendship, loyalty, obsession, infatuation with the help of the amazingly beautiful location with hills and a lake in the background. The dialog, the physical interaction between the characters – everything helps build the background. It is the background that matters in movies like this, the unsaid, the unmanifested. It is like the ethereal beauty of the world which lies beyond the observable world. Art has that power over human beings – it alone can show you what exists beyond the seen and the heard. Rohmer is the master in showing that and he excels leaving you with an emotion that can be described as bliss. I would give this movie a perfect 5/5, but watch it only if you like poetry or subtle stuff, else you will be bored to death.
(Running on MUBI)