Thursday, November 17, 2011

492. Ma nuit chez Maud/My Night at Maud's (1969)

Running Time: 110 minutes
Directed By: Eric Rohmer
Written By: Eric Rohmer
Main Cast: Jean-Louis Trintignant, Francoise Fabian, Marie-Christine Barrault, Antoine Vitez
Click here to view the trailer

A MORAL TALE

In fact, there were six "moral tales" directed by Eric Rohmer, but "My Night at Maud's" happens to be the only one included in THE BOOK. It's a shame really, because this film really peaked my interest in Eric Rohmer and makes me excited to discover more of his hidden gems, of which there's bound to be many.

Jean-Louis (Trintignant) is a Catholic, living in Clermont in France. He is new to the area, working as an engineer and spends his free time studying mathematics and keeping to himself. He attends Sunday services and is enamored by a cute, young blonde whom he sees there every Sunday, but has never mustered up the courage to approach. One day, Jean-Louis runs into an old friend, Vidal (Vitez), whom he hasn't seen in fourteen years. It is just after Christmas, but before New Year's and the two old chums sip beverages at a coffee bar and talk as if they've never missed a beat. At the end of their conversation, Vidal persuades Jean-Louis to join him in visiting a lady friend of his, Maud (Fabian). Jean-Louis reluctantly agrees. The evening between Jean-Louis, Vidal and Maud and their conversations, ranging from religion to love to philosophy, takes up a major part of the film. Eventually Vidal has too much too drink and excuses himself, leaving Jean-Louis and Maud alone together. When Maud persuades Jean-Louis to spend the night, so he won't have to drive in the snow, Jean-Louis is faced with some difficult decisions of morality.

SPOILER ALERT!

I kind of have to argue whether or not this is really a "moral tale". In my opinion, "My Night at Maud's" was not so much a tale of morality, but rather a tale of the decisions we make and the finality of those decisions. It also speaks volumes on the relationships that we kindle as human beings and how sometimes, so easily, they get extinguished. Let's take the main character of Jean-Louis and dissect him. For starters, he was a very complex character. He touted devout Catholicism, yet he had a very repugnant demeanor, at times. During the conversation scene, between Jean-Louis, Maud and Vidal, he seemed so cocky and smug and not the type of person you'd expect to be harping on about religion and morality. As the film goes on he becomes more relateable, but we'll get into that in a second. Here you had a guy who seemed to have his entire life thought out. He somehow knew that he was going to marry the mystery woman from the church, he knew that he wanted a Catholic girl, if nothing else and he often times, throughout the film, claimed that "he knew he wasn't wrong" or "i know I'm right". For him, everything was so final and his life seemed to depend on these solid, structural choices he'd made for himself.

So then you get to the point of the film that actually makes this a "moral tale" and the scene where Jean-Louis is confronted with the beautiful Maud, as they lie in bed together - her nude and him wrapped in a blanket and trying hard to stick to his guns. And, what do you know, Jean-Louis sticks to his guns and when the carrot is dangled in front of him, so to speak, he doesn't go for it. He resists. BUT...he still feels guilty about it. To me, that's fascinating and rings true to life. The reason I say he still feels guilty about it, is at the end of the film, immediately after he runs into Maud at the beach, he's tripping over his own tongue, trying to explain everything to Francoise, who is now his wife. He still feels like he has to explain her, as if she actually is an old lover of his, when in reality, nothing happened between them. They DID have a very deep bond, as short as it lasted, but sexually - nothing happened.

And let's talk about that bond between Jean-Louis and Maud for a moment, shall we. I think we all have people in our lives that we've happened upon, spent a very short amount of time with and then parted ways with, never to see them again. It's so sad really. In the film, when Maud and Jean-Louis are in her apartment and they part and promise to phone one another, it was, to me, a very sad scene, because you kind of knew that they were just going to forget about one another. For me this really hit home, because I've had so many friendships in my life that have blown away like dust in the wind. It's truly heartbreaking if you stop and think about it. You meet someone and for the time that you know them, they're special people to you, but then they go away, for one reason or another and soon they're nothing to you. To go from something to nothing is just heartbreaking. It was also very interesting how Francoise, at first, was completely uninterested in Jean-Louis, yet he was enamored with her. Maud, on the other hand, all but threw herself at Jean-Louis, yet he had already made up his mind that Francoise was the girl for him. It's something that I can't fully understand, yet am fascinated by and can understand on some levels.

As for the bad, I'm not sure I could really relate to the subject matter that existed in the dialogue. I'm just not the type of guy who enjoys sitting around talking about religion, Blaise Pascal and destiny. They're conversations, at times, made me feel like a child in a room full of adults. Not that they made me feel inferior or unintelligent, just that they made me feel bored and uninterested. I was more thought provoked by the actions of the actors and the ultimate outcomes, than the dialogue. However, the dialogue was such a major part of the film, that it was hard to simply overlook it and concentrate on the big picture. I'm not so sure that the subject matter within the dialogue was very important though. I think as long as you were able to grasp the overall message and themes of the picture, you were just fine.

RATING: 7.5/10 I'm not really sure what to make of this one, at this time. I know that I admire how much it made me think and that I think I'm going to be tossing it around in my head for many weeks to come.

MOVIES WATCHED: 349
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH:
652

November 17, 2011 2:45am

3 comments:

  1. A very good review that I cannot think of anything to add to. I enjoyed it, but not hugely (I saw 'The Green Ray' just before and enjoyed that a lot more).
    Ray

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hey Andrew!
    Where did you find this one? I can't find it anywhere!
    Amanda
    By the way, great review you made me even more excited to watch it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Twas on Netflix when I watched it (dvd at home, not streaming). A quick check shows it's still there.

      Good luck finding it and I hope you enjoy it!

      Delete

SINS OF OMISSION - Entry #65: Les nuits de la pleine lune/Full Moon in Paris (1984)

Running Time: 100 minutes Directed By: Eric Rohmer Written By: Eric Rohmer Main Cast: Pascale Ogier, Tcheky Karyo, Fabrice Luchini,...