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my night at maud’s (éric rohmer, 1969)

I once wrote of Éric Rohmer’s film Claire’s Knee, “A bunch of articulate people talk a lot ... like a more mature version of Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg in Breathless, without the pop energy. They talk and talk, and as we listen we get a feel for what each person thinks of themselves.” This is a good description of My Night at Maud’s, although there are fewer articulate people in this one, which I suppose brings it even closer to Breathless. This was another in Rohmer’s series, Six Moral Tales, released a year before #5, Claire’s Knee.

All of these films feature intelligent people involved in long conversations that reveal the character of the people doing the talking, no matter the topic of conversation. In the case of My Night at Maud’s, Pascal’s Wager is repeatedly discussed, but the central scene involves a man and a woman dancing around the possibility of a sexual relationship. The man, Jean-Louis, is played by Jean-Louis Trintignant, who is still making his presence known as he approaches 90. (Among his films are Z, The Conformist, Under Fire, and Amour.) The woman is Françoise Fabian, who seems to know the man better than he knows himself. The characters are just interesting enough, and the acting is just good enough, to keep our attention, but Rohmer doesn’t seem particularly interested in advancing the narrative, and I’m not convinced the characters change much, either, although Jean-Louis eventually marries the woman of his dreams, who is not Maud.

When I wrote about Claire’s Knee, I compared it to Breathless, but now, I think both movies can be compared to Linklater’s Before series. But I care less about Rohmer’s characters than I do about the couple in Linklater’s films, and find My Night at Maud’s easier to respect than to like. #246 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They list of the top 1000 films of all time. 7/10.