Pauline at the Beach (Why I Miss Eric Rohmer)

I like talky movies. Rohmer’s protagonists talk a lot, and can’t decide what to do, who to be with. They can be awkward and unaware of their own self-delusions. They don’t always read others very well.

Pauline and her older cousin Marion spend their summer vacation together. Marion sees herself as a sophisticate, but also runs with her emotions. The teenage Pauline possesses less guile and seems more clear-headed about love. Marion could learn from her, but she is too obstinate to admit she’s been wrong.

“Full Moon in Paris” (1984) shows young Louise insisting on a little place in Paris, to break the monotony of her boyfriend’s suburban apartment (or is it him she needs to escape?). Her metrosexual friend (Fabrice Luchini) keeps egging her on. She talks endlessly about how Paris is her, and yet finds herself bored and lonely. Indecisiveness leads to loss of an opportunity. Rohmer opens with film with the saying: “He has two women loses his soul. He who has two houses loses his mind.”

Rohmer said that he works with young characters because he feels at ease with them. Maybe this is because they still say what’s on their minds. I think that in some of his more recent movies, he portrayed older protagonists with the same prickly affection. “Autumn’s Tale” (1998), shows a much older Beatrice Romand (“Claire’s Knee”), still opinionated and passionate, and Marie Rivière (“Summer”), now polished and mature, but still a little vain and flirtatious. Both show how romantic entanglements of later years can bring back forgotten sensations…and misunderstandings.

Rohmer films have this sunny quality, a sort of tantalizing vignette view that shows our shortcomings, but in a gentle way.

I think that I need to see one of his films soon. I’m reading a sad book – Nancy Richler’s “The Impostor Bride”, and it turns my mind back to the question of identity and memory. How we bury thoughts that are difficult, memories of loss. That’s why sometimes we need something lighter, like an Eric Rohmer film. Light, but not insubstantial. At least it will teach us French proverbs, some invented by Rohmer himself.


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