Monday, April 13, 2015

Rohmer’s Full Moon in Paris

It is the early 1980s in Paris. The hair is feathered and the phones are all rotary. It looks glaringly dated, but the relationship issues of the characters inhabiting this world are as fresh today as they were when the film wrapped. Such is often the case with the work of Éric Rohmer. Technically, it is the fourth of his narratively discrete Comedies and Proverbs pseudo-series, but Full Moon in Paris (trailer here) is completely its own Rohmeresque animal, which launches Film Movement’s Classic line when it re-releases this Friday in New York.

Louise loves Remi, more or less, but she is not nearly as enamored with him as he is with her. By now, the lovely social butterfly is accustomed to being in that position. Still, she is committed enough to move into his modern suburban condo in Marne. The daily commute from her Paris interior design internship is a bit of a drag, especially when she wants to go out with friends. Everything would be much simpler if Remi would agree to let her keep a pied-a-terre. Of course, that means they will have to mutually trust each other.

Despite her aggressively flirtatious nature, Louise is, by-and-large, faithful to Remi. Ironically, it is Octave, the married platonic friend whose advances she frequently refuses, who plants the seeds of suspicions in her. He is absolutely convinced he saw Remi with one of Louise’s fashionista friends, under rather intimate circumstances.

Like most of Rohmer’s films, Moon completely stands alone. Yet, the more Rohmer films viewers watch, the more they get out of them as a collective body. Again, Rohmer displays a characteristic fascination with schedules and time tables, while duly marking the passage of successive months. He also gives us a time capsule snap shot of the suburban Paris circa 1984.

However, Moon is arguably one of the easiest Rohmer films for viewers to identify with. Let’s be honest, just about everyone has been in an unequal relationship, liking the other person more than they reciprocated, or liking them in a completely different way. Louise is in several such relationships, but karma will ultimately catch up with her.

Perhaps the saddest aspect of Moon is the tragic fate of Pascale Ogier, who would become only the second actress to be posthumously nominated for César Award for her performance as Louise. She might very well have become Rohmer mainstay, but it was not to be.  Even though the character causes all her angst and heartache, Ogier still makes Louise a figure of great sympathy. Yes, she is self-serving and insensitive, but in a strangely naïve way. Indeed, she is the picture of waif-like vulnerability.

It is also rather mind-blowing to see the future Luc Besson tough guy Tchéky Karyo playing the socially awkward Remi. He is in fact, quite good, especially in the big pay-off scene. In contrast, Octave is not so very different from the supercilious characters Fabrice Luchini has made a career out of playing, but he gives Louise’s married suitor a notable edge. Whereas, in the Rohmer tradition of small parts with large impact, László Szabó nearly steals the entire picture outright in his eleventh hour appearance as an illustrator working in the wee hours at a local café, slyly putting an exclamation point on Rohmer’s chosen proverb: “he who has two women loses his soul, he who has two houses loses his mind.”

Moon returns just in time to act as a corrective to Victor Levin’s middling 5 to 7, which seems to think it has a lot to say about relationships, but is completely undercut by Louise’s eye-opening experiences. Rohmer’s film has a forgiving nature, but there is still a lot of sting to it. It is also rather encouraging to see the quiet Rohmer renaissance continue, following the long deferred proper New York opening of A Summer’s Tale and the subsequent revival of A Tale of Winter. Both are fine works, but Full Moon in Paris is an even better film. Highly recommended for those who appreciate honest and sophisticated filmmaking, Full Moon in Paris opens this Friday (4/17) at the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, in conjunction with a full retrospective of Rohmer’s Comedies and Proverbs.