My Night at Maud's Movie Review
I realize I should expect a good amount of hate mail for panning a "classic," but here goes anyway. See if you think this sounds like a good way to spend two hours: Devout Catholic Jean-Louis (Jean-Louis Trintignant) decides that he's going to marry Françoise, a blonde girl he sees at mass but whom he's never actually met. After half an hour of wandering around their small town, he ends up going with his pal Vidal to the home of Maud (Françoise Fabian), a divorcee with a young child who's actually interested in listening to Jean-Louis drone on and on about his moral choices, only for him to throw them to the winds when he decides to jump into bed with Maud, mere minutes after exclaiming he'd never do such a thing.
Eventually, Jean-Louis does meet Françoise and he does marry her, and that's pretty much the end of the film.
Aside from more information on the philosophical tenets of Blaise Pascal, what are we to take from all of this? Our moral hero (as is the case in all six of the "moral tales") is basically dying for a little lovin'. Will he pick one girl or another girl? That is, in a nutshell, the central dilemma in all of these films: How can this dude get lucky and not hate himself in the morning?
When I think of "morality," you might imagine that a filmmaker would paint this story with a brighter and broader brush. Consider Krzysztof Kieslowski's The Decalogue, which took the 10 Commandments as its basis for investigating modern morality, and these films examined the issue from every possible angle. Rohmer is fixated on sex to the point where he had to make six movies about it? I guess "six horny tales" just didn't sound as good. This is not to say that there aren't some poignant and even witty moments in the films, it's just that as they drag on, those moments become fewer and further between.
Surprisingly, Rohmer's first two films, and especially his very first one in the series, are much better than the later entries, though few have ever seen them. You're lucky to get the chance to see them thanks to Criterion, which has put all six films out in one box set. The Girl at the Monceau Bakery is a fascinating look at obsession and transferred affections and clocks in at under half an hour. Suzanne's Career is somewhat less amusing, but still a worthwhile film, as Rohmer hadn't yet started to repeat himself so much.
Also in the set are La Collectionneuse (one of the more interesting entries and Rohmer's first color movie, about the perils of playing "hard to get" and how loathing can sometimes turn to obsession), Claire's Knee,and Love in the Afternoon, which you can also watch if you really want to see the same thing over and over again.. (Though with that said, Afternoon makes for a moderately interesting coda.)
Aka Ma nuit chez Maud.