I usually give films on this blog a second watch, but won’t bother with this one. By about half way through I was wanting to have it over with, finger hovering itchily over the fast-forward button.
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 2017
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 hapless puppy, hanging around and chasing after her 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 to 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.
Goodbye Lucie. You were a lovely breath of fresh air. But now its back to stale aired Anne for the long final scene in her crampy little attic flat with her 2 goldfish swimming around their very small bowl – and no filter. They’re gonna die from lack of oxygen!
Poor Francois is suffocating Anne too, “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”. That’s true. But its because he’s needy of the love you aren’t giving him that he’s so upset. His need of you makes you want him less.
But she’s poking and provoking him: pull him towards, push him away. Wanting his pale passivity to become passionate, as anguished as her own suffering. “If you talk about something you give it an importance it doesn’t have” says Francoise.
Every little grain and nuance of Annes ambivalence towards Francoise (and towards men, and love affairs in general) is painfully squeezed out of this scene.
I’ve been won over! This is being a much better film than first time around. It just shows you. That how you watch a film can depend very much on how you want to see it: on how your mood is, how sympathetic you are willing to be, what you are looking for, what you are prepared to understand, how invested in giving something of yourself you are, the degree of curiosity you are energizing your watching with.
I’m going to keep this film now. And by the time I’ve watched it a third time it will have matured – like a fine wine – into something even finer!
Rating moves from that initial desultory 5/10 to a very commendable 7/10