Le Genou de Claire is a summer film … whose only overt timeliness … is the lack on heavy religious, or metaphysical, preoccupations…. (p. 122)
Under cover of banality, Rohmer deepens his subtleties, splits his archetypes or keeps them off-stage, allows secondary readings to come to the surface….
Except for Claire and her beau—from whom nothing is to be gleaned: what they say or think or feel exists merely to excite, provoke or seduce each other—Rohmer makes his people compulsive talkers; but this time the dialogue, witty and free of epigram as ever, takes on the dual function of alternately revealing and concealing the characters…. [The] more they explain themselves to us, the more one feels they're offering a counterfeit of motives and self-deception….
There are other valid but less sunny readings to Claire. It's revealing that for the first time in a conte moral, Rohmer introduces a rapport of cruelty by bringing together in the same story characters from two different generations…. Le Genou de Claire throws in young and adults together, setting up a vertical relationship between the mature (Jerome, Aurora, perhaps Madame Wagner) and the juvenile (Claire, Laura, Gilles), and the subject of the film becomes then the progressive building, and inevitable resolution, of an erotic relationship between one and the other. Or, how the conflict between maturity (reflection, experience, self-control) and immaturity (impulse, desire) is resolved through an act of base childish spite: snitching. This abridging of the gap, this redressing of an imbalance, couldn't we read it as a metaphor for mutual, inevitable corruption? (p. 123)
Carlos Clarens, "'Le Genou de Claire'," in Sight and Sound (copyright © 1971 by The British Film Institute), Vol. 40, No. 3, Summer, 1971, pp. 122-23.