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Eric Rohmer - My Night at Maud's


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If anyone wondered why critics lavished praise over the French New Wave, then a good place start with an answer is with Breathless by Jean-Luc Godard.  But I would recommend an Eric Rohmer picture; if I had to pick one, since Rohmer was a prolific filmmaker, I would choose My Night at Maud's.


Like most of Rohmer's film, My Night at Maud's has a narrative structure that is based on talk. The conversations, however, are not stiff or stagey (a frequent criticism of Rohmer).  Rather, it's the silence, the pauses, the glances that reveal just as much as what the characters say. There are four of them on display: the unnamed lead played by Jean-Louis Trintignat, an engineer and practicing Catholic with progressive views on deeds, i.e. sex outside of marriage; Maud, a secular, libertine doctor for whom sex is a worthwhile experience without attachment; Vidal, a Marxist professor who is Maud's lover; and Francois, the attractive blonde Trintignat's character sees at Catholic Mass and, based on that one sighting, sets out to marry her. 


These actors talk, and talk, about philosophy, religion, chance, fate and commitment.  No one talks like this, do they?  In Rohmer's films yes, they do: heady, intoxicating dialogue that propels the narrative rather than stopping it.  


My Night at Maud's was filmed in 1968, a turbulent time in Europe as well as in the United States.  Rohmer thankfully avoids self-conscious  forays simply to sound hip.  So, appreciate My Night at Maud's for what it has to say, or can only be guessed.  And, enjoy the scenic streets and cafes of the French provincial town that serves as the setting.

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