Sunday, February 15, 2009

Full Moon in Paris

Les Nuits de la Pleine Lune (Full Moon in Paris) turns on the following proverb: "He who has two women loses his mind. He who has two houses loses his soul".

Not surprisingly for Eric Rohmer, the 'he' is in fact a 'she'. Louise (the late Pascale Ogier) lives with her boyfriend Remi (Tcheky Karyo) in a drab dormitory suburb. When the film begins she is already working on restoring her Paris apartment, her pied-a-terre, where she can, if she likes, spend occasional nights staying over in town. 

As one might. 

This is not going down well with Remi, whom Louise deftly out-maneuvers with some typically rapid fire joustings. "Surely you want me to be happy? This will make me happy, therefore you ought to be happy that I am doing this." 

Louise is a young (and quite beautiful) design graduate. She has a friend, Octave (Fabrice Luchini), a writer whose self-obsession and self-importance is a comic counterpoint to Louise, who merely wants her own way in most things. Louise is one of those beautiful, capricious women that one goes to university in order to meet. Indeed how she came to be with the rather stolid Remi is a bit of a mystery. Their relationship is prickly, unfulfilling, unhappy. In wanting both worlds, her own life in Paris and the stable but rather boring suburbs, Louise is walking a tight-rope. She is tempted by others but wants to hold firm to her ideals, however muddled they might be.

Full Moon in Paris shares some of the concerns of Love in the Afternoon, though the characters arrive at a different destination. In the earlier film Frederic, married and living in the suburbs, is attracted to Chloe, an old friend who re-enters his life at a point where he is contemplating the attraction of others. This attraction culminates in one the most exquisite scenes in all Rohmer's films, where Frederic, rather unwisely goes to Chloe's apartment, pursuing his dreams. Louise, likewise, wants to fulfill some half-expressed desire for independence. But in getting what she wishes for it might seem that she is being punished for it. But this would be wring. After all, Louise might be unwise, even a little misled, but in the end it is not that she is forced to choose but that her choices have been made for her.

This film might not have all the surface sparkle of others like My Girlfriend's Boyfriend, Pauline a la Plage or A Summer's Tale. Despite the title, the film is something of an anti-romantic film. The comedy is disguised by the apparently indulgent, self-absorbed actions of Louise and Octave. On the other hand, my wife was agog at the early 1980s fashion, which included extravagant cowl-necks, a black faux-punk zipper shouldered dress, Louise's flamboyant beehive hair-style and period precise elbows-in dancing. 

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