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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    SF Bay Area


    (Metrograph Éric Rohmer x 3, part 3)



    Misunderstandings and insecurities

    A university student is upset when he thinks his girlfriend, who's five years his senior, is cheating on him. In order to find out what's going on, he spies on her lover in this meandering story of a day in the life of a young man by Éric Rohmer. The subtitle is "On ne saurait penser à rien" (One can't think of nothing). Rohmer makes good use of 16mm Paris location city shooting with handheld cameras in Nouvelle Vague style here and this is a good capture of a young man on the move in real, crowded and noisy city spaces, the post office, the street, a busy workers lunch restaurant, and a bus. A contrast to Rohmer's serene beaches and seasides, parks, and bourgeois houses.

    Sadly, the main actor in this film, the young man, is played by someone who was never seen again. He is Philippe Marlaud, born in Paris of Russian aristocrats and fluent in French, Russian, and English. He is in every important scene of this film, he was 21, and he died just a few weeks after making this film in a tragic camping accident, from burns. He was in only one other film, Maurice Pialat's 1980 Graduate First/Passe ton bac d'abord, a portrait of working class provincial French youth at the end of their lycée years. He stands out among the many roles.

    In Aviator Marbaud plays François, a law student preparing for an exam who also works at night as a mail-sorter in the post office; he is perpetually short of sleep. He's doing a favor for his girlfriend Anne (Marie Riviére, in her second Rohmer film and to be in four more). He's found her a plumber, but he must tell her right away. This leads early in the morning after work to Pereire, in the 17e arrondissement, to leave Anne a message. But at first he has to leave because his pen won't write. While he's away buying a ballpoint and a postcard for his note, Christian (Mathieu Carrière) an airline pilot arrives in a taxi at the door of Anne's building. Important to note the girlfriend of both Philippe and Christian, lives in a tiny "chambre de bonne." So she hears Christian tacking a note on her door, because her bed is a few feet away, and she yells for him to come back. A quick scene between Anne and the uniformed pilot ensues.

    Rohmer enjoys playing here with overlapping arrivals and departures out of boulevard farce. While François is chewing on his new biro and penning a nice note at a cafe, then dozing over his coffee, Christian is telling Anne stuff François ought to know but won't find out till much later. He comes back, sees the pilot, then later pursues Anne. She tells him he has no reason to worry, but they have a big argument on the street where, out of annoyance at his persistence, she refuses to explain till after the weekend. He can't wait! She won't explain, obviously, because in her head she can't give up Christian, so she can't bear to say he's gone.

    François is also sleep-deprived, which makes him a little crazy, one supposes. By chance, he comes upon the pilot, and so begins following him. A lot of the time, he winds up in the Buttes-Chaumont park with a blonde (Haydée Caillot). Who is she? We don't know. On the way over on the bus, François, following the pilot, encounters a very pretty young girl called Lucie (Anne-Laure Meury, having a brief but prolific period at this time), who, like François, is taking a break from school. Her teachers's on strike, she says; but who knows? She tells some fibs later.

    Lucie is only fifteen, but she's coquettish and charming and perhaps she's more age-appropriate for François, who Anne's friend at lunch (María Luisa García) doesn't think much of a catch. Anyway, Lucie and François enjoy teasing byplay as François, probably taking on Lucie as camouflage for his pursuit, pretends to her not to be following Christian, then tells her he's a private detective, then admitting what he's really up to. Rohmer stages one of his favorite things: a boy and girl flirting by discussing their problems in romance - and amorous misunderstandings, because, of course, Lucie thinks François is really following her. And maybe we think he should be, because she is charming, and Anne is neurotic and not clearly in love with François.

    You can say it makes no logical sense whatever for François to follow the pilot ex, but we've seen with him and Anne what a clingy fellow he is and it makes emotional sense. Later he goes to Anne's chambre de bonne and perhaps because they're both so tired by then, she lets him in (it's a lonely little room) and they eventually have a loving scene together. She lets him comfort her and this enables him to feel loved. Maybe she's not so bad after all. Now there's also a possibility of something with Lucie: but when François comes to hand-deliver a note to Lucie, François sees her kissing a strapping young man on the street, so he puts his note in the post, and keeps his distance.

    This isn't Rohmer's most consequential film, but its almost real-time narrative sequence of pursuit gives it intensity, and it's very keenly observed; the vérité filmmaking and authentic soundtrack add to the urban realism that sets Rohmer's amorous storylines in a new key.

    [i]The Aviators's Wife/La femme de l'aviateur[/I, 106 mins., debuted it was the first in Rohmer's series Comédies et proverbes, which also included L'Amie de mon amie]. They're in the September 4-18, 2020 Metrograph Rohmer x 3 series, which also includes 4 Adventures of Reinette and Mirabelle. This one opens Friday, September 18 - 8:00pm EST and runs through Sept. 24.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 04-27-2021 at 03:58 PM.


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