Eric Rohmer Graham Petrie

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Graham Petrie

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[In Ma Nuit chez Maud] Rohmer presents Jean-Louis and Françoise quite straight forwardly as people for whom principles are genuinely important and adultery and infidelity really matter. The film is all of a piece: characters, setting, and camera style constantly reinforce and interact with each other, yet within this apparent uniformity Rohmer creates effects of great subtlety and depth. Despite the fact that the film centers round the long conversation in Maud's apartment, filmed largely in long-held, almost static shots, and that this scene is paralleled, though more briefly, by the later dialogue in Françoise's room, it never loses visual interest. Rohmer controls the rhythm of the film perfectly, making the editing reflect all the facets of the debate—the flashes of intensity, the struggle for self-expression, the lapses into misunderstanding or confusion, the moments of slackness and tiredness. As the conversation develops we begin to see the characters from a variety of perspectives…. Rohmer shows great sensitivity to the ways in which behavior and even personality can shift according to situation or circumstance…. [Each] situation allows or forces a different facet to reveal itself. And behind each individual episode is the mingled austerity and joyfulness of the season, handled in such a way that the bleakness of the winter appears as a conditioning factor in the relationships. (pp. 57-8)

The structure of the film appears clear-cut, the images distinguish sharply between black and white, the rhythm is assured and self-confident, the settings are pared down so that they reinforce the argument rather than suggesting alternatives or variations of it. Yet within this framework people reveal themselves to be confused and hesitant, projects never work out in quite the way they were intended to, motives are mixed and muddled, and every act, however decisive and apparently self-sufficient, has its shadow. And over and above this is a final layer, in which the enclosures and limitations have their truth after all. The film moves through a series of clearly defined spaces—rooms, cars, streets, a church—within which each...

(The entire section is 520 words.)