Saturday, August 15, 2009
My Night at Maud's
Ma nuit chez Maud; Drama, France, 1969; D: Eric Rohmer, S: Jean-Louis Trintignant, Francoise Fabian, Antoine Vitez, Marie-Christine Barrault
The introverted engineer Jean-Louis wants to be a noble Catholic. He meets the blond Francoise in a church but is ashamed to meet her. He makes friends with Vidal and goes to with him to visit his extroverted, open minded friend Maud. Their conversations continue well into the winter night since Maud is very interested in Jean-Louis' opinions. When it starts to snow, Vidal leaves the apartment, while Jean-Louis and Maud stay alone. Her open minded views fascinate him so he sleeps over at her place. The next morning, he changes and meets Francoise with whom he gets married. 5 years later, he again meets Maud one day.
The most beautiful film by Eric Rohmer is a relaxed drama that subtly executed a discussion about the views on intercourse and moral, getting nominated for 2 Oscars (best foreign language film, screenplay) and winning the New York Film Critics Circle Award (best screenplay). At first the story deceivingly seems like a usual melodrama full of empty walk, but things quickly start to stir up when protagonists Jean-Louis and Vidal enter Maud's apartment: the minute she changes into her pyjamas with a mini skirt (making Vidal jokingly add: "Aha, you want to show us your legs") and invites them to stay at her place, does the movie transform into a magical event with such an ease as if you turn a feather upside down. When Vidal leaves and the shy Jean-Louis stays alone with Maud the whole night it's as if the whole story climbs up a notch in brilliance even more. Their conversations are so honest, so direct and so fascinating that Rohmer managed to do the impossible, to invite the viewer to join the intimate experience of the two in the apartment. Jean-Louis is fascinated by her open minded views and they talk about several things, like about Christians whose reputation is more important to them than their faith, while he even sleeps over at her place, in her bed, while she is naked. That is almost a mythical achievement that creates everything through mood. If the whole film had revolved just around that main plot, and disposed the subplots - the lax opening and weak ending - it would have been a masterwork, but even in this version it is a shining little film that speaks volumes about human relationships.