Marie Riviere (Anne) was pressing a few touchy buttons. Poor Francois, Anne wasn’t half giving him a hard time. Pulling and pushing at him. Not in love with him. Not really wanted to be his girlfriend. Too ambivalent to even be that considerate. I mean, he’s a nice lad – at least she could be kind, let him down gently. She’s too selfishly caught up in her own precious feelings to enlarge her small self-centred self. Yes, irritating. Her various frustrations not only irritated her. They irritated me also. I couldn’t like her.
Francois was capably if somewhat blandly played by Philippe Marlaud. His cloying need to be Anne’s boy (friend) didn’t seem to be totally convincing him either.
This film was getting to drag its feet.
The second act was sort of better. At least Anne-Laure Meury as schoolgirl Lucie injects some necessary vivacity. She tries to charm the charmless Francoise out of himself. The way she plays with his dull consciousness is like prodding at a pudding with your finger to test how ready or resistant it is.
Despite Lucie’s liveliness I’m disengaging from these contrived dialogues they’re meant to be engaging one another with. They don’t seem real, or true. Is a 15 year old schoolgirl capable of talking like this? Can this amount of intimate self-disclosure really be motivated by such a casual encounter? I can hear too many Rohmer “articulations” being put into their mouths; they aren’t saying these words – Rohmer is.
Ok Lucie. I’ve liked you – but now its time for you to bugger off.
And I’d like Francois not to be buggering back to Anne. But he does. So the whole third act is taken up with her push-pull ambivalence again. Francois tries to make off through the door a couple of times – go on pal, pick up your bag and go! Leave her, reject her, dump her. Stop being a wop! Stop being so bloody nice. You’re not in love with her no matter how much you try to convince yourself – or us – you are. You’re just puting up with it mate. Letting yourself be a passive doormat. Go on – dump the self-absorbed selfish neurotic female. Do it!
But he won’t let go. Or he wants to – cus he likes to – cling on to what makes him feel worthless. And call it love. Cus he’s worth it.
And even having the half-hearted hopeless notion of going back to fresh young Lucie won’t work either. Cus she’s kissing off her boyfriend.
Good. It’s over. Not one to watch again. But I always say that about Rohmer films I haven’t liked. And then I go watch them again. Perverse this attraction I have to Rohmer. Almost like a failing, like a malady I can’t find a cure for.
Dir: Eric Rohmer, France
Sad Footnote:Philippe Marlaud died the same year this film came out when his tent caught fire while camping. Only 22. If I’d known that I might have watched him a bit more sympathetically.
UPDATE: March 2016
I only watched this film once. Then gave it a cursory once over review. Maybe I’ll see more value in it on a closer 2nd watch. Yes, I’m going to watch it again.
Not feeling the negative reaction towards Anne (Marie Riviere) I was having first time around. Marie Riviere was a favourite actress of Rohmers’. She was very sympathetic in The Green Ray.
My POV has switched to her. Before I was on side with Francois. But I can see how she might see him as a bit of a doggie, a hapless puppy, hanging around and chasing after all the time. She’s just not that in to you Francois! He’s the transitional gap-filler, the “interim he’ll do for now stooge”
He’s a serial stalker this lad. First Anne. Then onto following Anne’s ex (Christian) in Parc des Buttes-Chaumont. Schoolgirl Lucie lucks into view. A delightful distraction. Come on Francois, this girl is lovely. Stop being so earnest, let her light you up!
“You find me ridiculous” he says Francoise
“Yes, people wrapped up in their own problems always seem so’ says Lucie. Astute this girl, for a 15 year old.
I’ve liked being in that park with these 2 for the last 20 minutes.
They sit in the Cocker cafe “I like life when its mostly like a novel” says she
“I hate anything clinging” says Anne “It’s absurd, because here I am with the most clinging guy in the world”
“Since it’s occasional I tolerate you” (she’s just not into you!)
“You’re so sad, so angry, so upset, yet whats happened to you” says Anne, “Nothing serious”
“If you talk about something you give it an importance it doesn’t have” says Francoise
Francoise is confused about whether Anne is cheating on him or not, and embarks on some (very) amateur private detection. The plot is nowhere near as important as the characters, their attempts to understand each other, their moods, and mistakes.
The younger(Lucie) and the older woman(Anne) act like a balance of forces on Francois.Rohmer depicts the real pain and confusion and wasted attempts at happiness underlying the complicated intrigues of the characters.There is a huge gulf between fantasy and reality,feelings and words.Anne is an independent working girl 5 years older than the sensitive Francois. After Lucie departs, Francois visits a stress-inflicted Anne, it seems they reconcile and Francois figures out who the blonde is.
These showcase her neuroses to irritating but ultimately moving effect. What is remarkable about the film is how Rohmer pulls around our emotions. At first both Anne and François have no right to our sympathy at all. She is self-absorbed, extremely rude (a horrible restaurant scene) and manipulative of men. He is clinging, jealous and more than a little nerdy in his pestering and persistent stalking. These characters are just not nice and after 20 minutes we may be forgiven for switching off. However, the park sequence and Lucie’s effect on François reveals his charm and we start to really like the guy.
Then in an extraordinary bed scene which has Anne cavorting in front of François and us in her panties she desperately tries to verbalize feelings which simply can’t be articulated. We are confronted with the very real pain which grips her life and our sympathies are turned upside down. We realize that inclement circumstances (being jilted or simply being with the ‘wrong’ person!) bring out the worst in these characters (as they do in all of us of course!), but at base they are warm vulnerable people who only want to love and be loved in return. Rohmer’s warm humanity and refusal to judge his characters remains intact throughout to make for a very beautiful little charmer which yet refuses to resolve any of their problems – such is real life of course.
Rohmer places François (a quiet, gentle performance from Marlaud) as a sleep-deprived, naïve Prince, with ineffectual skills as a suitor: he doesn’t quite understand that all his efforts to please Anne just serve to get on her nerves. Although Rohmer upholds the romantic image of Francois as a young infatuated man in love, this is more a love-letter to Lucie and Anne whose age difference and attitude to love are ten years apart. Lucie, radiant in her optimism, boldly claims that with love, for her, ‘it’s all or nothing.’ Meanwhile Anne says she doesn’t need to be with a man and believes marriage shouldn’t mean man and wife should live together. This difference gives the film a light melancholy that is worn like an old and treasured summer dress.
Anne’s boredom with men is a recurring theme: Anne is endlessly patient with Francois, claiming ‘I am too nice’ and ‘I spend my life doing things I don’t have to.’ Rivière’s performance is luminous. She plays Anne with a compelling and distinctive fragility, stubbornness and compassion. She aches in her 1980s modernity, in her need for love, and desire to hold onto her independence.
La Femme De L’Aviateur a fairy-tale of misunderstandings and chance meetings, with the time for characters to reflect properly, in a true meandering Eric Rohmer-style. True to life, and true to heart.