Tuesday, October 02, 2007

A Pastoral (4)

Les Nuits de la pleine lune (1984)
directed by Eric Rohmer
rating: 4 out of 5 cravats
on DVD from Netflix

In one of the most sublime shots in Rohmerdom, Louise and Octave sit talking in an anonymous café near Notre Dame. It is January, and their conversational demeanor suggests the perfect temperature indoors. Louise loves Rémi, who lives in Marne, an unattractive Paris suburb. She keeps a pied-à-terre in the city, and goes to parties on nights when Rémi prefers to stay in.

"To love someone deeply," she says, "I have to love him from afar now and then."

"If you loved me as I love you," Rémi retorts, "we'd be married by now."

"And divorced!" says Louise.

Time proves her right. She cheats on Rémi on the night of a full moon, decides honestly that it was the wrong decision, and returns to Marne to discover that Rémi is in love with another woman. The proverb implies she had it coming, but Rohmer creates in her character an idealist ill-prepared for the all-too practical humanity that surrounds her. It isn't a pithy French justification for one-night affairs (Octave, the ladies man, is without a doubt the film's fool), but rather, sympathy for an innocence that doesn't need to imply immaturity.

At the café, Louise stands up to use the restroom. As she rises, the camera slides back and away, like a chair pulled out from the table. Louise walks to the front of the restaurant, where people gather and faces pass through the lights outside. She steps out into the world; it is lovely, but still the world, and minutes later she finds the first sign that Rémi is untrue.