My Night at Maud's (1969)
Eric Rohmer's "My Night at Maud's" is much less about the characters involved and much more about a point being made—albeit a point that doesn't immediately jump out at the viewer. Perhaps the movie is about hope and taking chances, or pragmatic religion getting in the way of our experiences, or even more drastic: it's about the secrets we keep. All that being said, the movie operates as fairly entertaining on its own without the heavy symbolism and need for analysis...though it does leave you cold in the end.
The movie begins with the introduction of Jean-Louis (Jean-Louis Trintignant) as a philosopher, Catholic, and progressive student. He is trying to read the works of Pascal as well as understand his own religion. He takes a view on sex that seems foreign to his cohorts, who would much rather have a good time than think of the consequences.
Perhaps Jean-Louis' problem is that he thinks too much. He's always taking everything to its logical conclusion, no matter how much it hurts him to do that. Love seems distant and elusive, though he wishes for marriage as "everyone does".
He pines after a blonde-haired girl in church and thinks about marrying her. On a chance encounter, he bumps into an old school friend, Vidal (Antoine Vitez) who invites him along to meet a very special person. This person turns out to be Maud (Françoise Fabian) whose easy charm and nice personality easily endears herself to all those meet her, even Jean-Louis through all his logic and wondering.
The longest scene in the movie takes place at Maud's house (hence the title) and consists of the most shameless flirting and the deepest conversations.
I don't know how but Eric Rohmer manages to tap into the thought process that we all have and how we are all hypocrites. He shows us Jean-Louis firmly rejecting the advances of Maud and eventually slipping into bed next to her while she's naked (though nothing happens). This much is certainly symbolic of something, though I don't really care what.
As the movie continues, the relationship progresses and Jean-Louis has to do the worst thing possible: rationalize.
He and Vidal have many talks about the idea of taking a chance even though the odds are far against you. If you win, you might have happiness in the most blissful sense, but if you lose...you lose. So the audience thinks that Jean-Louis might take a chance and be with Maud and sometimes you think he's on the verge of it, sometimes it seems like the furthest thing from his mind.
"My Night at Maud's" is clever because of its script. There are no awkward pauses or random segues, this piece is completely genuine with its words, though not necessarily its actions.
It's a meandering work that was obviously influenced by the French New Wave cinema movement, where we want to know more about style and thought rather than plot.
This isn't to say that "My Night at Maud's" is simply mediocre, because it's far and above many works of the similar time period. What the film lacks is a little simplicity in its thoughts and a little complexity in the plot.
Call my a skeptic, but there is only so much Pascal-related conversations that I can hear before I lose my interest...and then there's the ending; but that's another story.
Posted by Micah Jones