Saturday, December 27, 2008

Pauline a la plage

Pauline a la plage (1983) is a superbly balanced story of four people who meet, where else, at the beach,  becoming entangled in a delicate mesh of amorous misunderstandings. Marion has taken her fifteen-year-old cousin Pauline on holiday to the Brittany coast and there meets Pierre,  an old boyfriend. Almost immediately another, older man, Henri. It has to be said that Henri is un roue vieux, a libertine of sorts. The recently divorced Marion is of course immediately drawn to Henri, despite Pierre 's earnest confession that he is still in love with her. 

Marion is classic Rohmer, her high-minded ideals soon undermined by her own actions. Of course this is done without malice for her, it is simply the way we humans prefer to live our lives.  " A wagging tongue bites itself" is the motto of the film, the third in the Comedies and Proverbs, and thus it proves for Marion. (And yes, it's another very talky Rohmer film, brimming with lively debate and dialogue.)

Henri and Marion getting to grips

All this emotional to-ing and fro-ing is observed with equilibrium by Pauline. And of course Pauline has a little love interest too in Sylvan, whom she meets also a la plage. Their attraction is uncomplicated by the standards of the adults, but Pauline is drawn into their machinations by Henri, acting to save his own skin. For Pauline it's a bruising encounter with the double standards of the adult world. 

Pauline a la plage would make a great YA novel. The teenage characters are deftly and convincingly captured by Rohmer, an absolute master of the late adolescent years. 

A final, not insignificant pleasure is the Brittany coastline in late summer: though there is a glimpse of Mont St Michel, the season is the wind blown, low slanting light of late summer. Not the postcard France yet all the more affecting for it.


Misrule said...

I suppose this film disproves the wise words of that musical auteur Sandy Wilson (The Boy Friend)—sur la plage, everyone doesn't look the same!

Mike said...


frankenslade said...

I recently felt like I needed to revisit this movie and some other Rohmer films that I watched ages ago. There's a scene in a recent French movie I just saw and loved, I've Loved You So Long (I think that was the title in English - Il y a longtemps je t'aime), in which some characters briefly debate Rohmer's films. I was wondering how that discussion may have been commenting on the movie I was watching.

Mike said...

Good question, Frank.
I saw that film too and when the discussion turned to Rohmer it really made me sit up! The opinion was that French culture was/is being bombarded by 'trash' from Hollywood and elsewhere. But it was interesting that the person opining was a belligerent drunk (who then went on the humiliate Juliette).
So we might suspend our approval of the statement, perhaps, within the context of this film. The subject matter was away from ER's patch but the use of sustained observation of character, the stillness of shots, was suggestive. Likewise the milieu of middle class and intellectuals. The ending was a little more closed than Rohmer might go in for, too. The redemptive seemed more plot driven than purely character based. But having taken us to such a sad place, the director might be forgiven for offering us a glimpse of a future.

I left the movie thinking, I must go home and watch Le Rayon Vert. A Rohmer film that I have yet too see. As you can see from this blog I am making my through the Comedies and Proverbs in a tremendous box set, The Eric Rohmer collection.

Personally, I think Il y a longtemps je t'aime is one of the better (and more challenging) French movies I have seen recently.

Thank you for the comment!