SFT// Eric Rohmer -The Bakery Girl Of Monceau

SHORT FILM TUESDAY

The Bakery Girl Of Monceau (1963)

Documentary filmmaker Barbet Schroeder stars as a man caught between two women in this early effort by Eric Rohmer. This film begins a cycle of films by the one time editor of the Cahiers du Cinema called “Six Moral Tales”. In these films, Rohmer analyzes the changing social mores in modern France.

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My Night At Maud’s: A Very Rohmer Christmas

A very Catholic individual winds up in an intellectual and spiritual battle in Eric Rohmer’s 1968 film Ma Nuit Chez Maud (My Night At Maud’s).

The shadow of French mathematician, physicist, inventor, writer and Catholic philosopher Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) blankets the film. In fact, My Night At Maud’s is set mostly in Pascal’s native Clermont-Ferrand.

Pascal was a Jansenite, part of a sect of Catholicism that believed in the emphasized importance of original sin. In My Night At Maud’s, Jean-Louis (Jean-Louis Trintignant) denies and rejects the Calvinist doctrine in favor of his interpretation of Jesuit doctrine. Jean-Louis prefers the looser Jesuit interpretation and, conversely, stricter execution of the doctrine.

Another point of contention in the film is Pascal’s Wager, a philosophy that one should live their life as if God (and more specifically, Jesus Christ) exists even if you do not really believe it. This philosophical point conflicts with how Jean-Louis lives. For instance, he believes in Jesus Christ, or at least says he does, but his actions and deeds are often in conflict. This conflicts becomes relevant when Jean-Louis meets his boyhood friend Vidal (Antoine Vitez), which disrupts Jean-Louis’ intentions to court the blonde, almost untouched Françoise (Marie-Christine Barrault). Vidal, a lapsed Catholic and a socialist, introduces Jean-Louis to the Marxist divorcee Maud (Françoise Fabian) and the plot thickens.

The film centers around a talk about Pascal’s philosophy. Ironically, Jean-Louis, Vidal and Maud are in their mid-thirties, a few years older than Jesus was upon his crucifixion. After an impromptu trip to a recital and then to midnight mass, they wind up at Maud’s for dinner, conversation, and temptation.

 

In the middle of the trio’s philosophical discussion, Maud’s daughter Marie wakes up, and wants to see the lights on the Christmas tree. Maud obliges, but turns it off after less than a minute before sending Marie back to bed. This is an analogy for Marie’s interest in religion, both as a childish endeavour, and as a philosophical plaything.

 

My Night At Maud’s is the third (yet fourth filmed) of Eric Rohmer’s Six Moral Tales. It is also the second in the series to run at feature length, and the final (and only feature length) film to be shot in black and white. Cinematographer Nestor Almendros uses the film to highlight the darkness and the light of winter, and the various shades of morality in the film’s characters.

By Tom Keiser

My Night at Maud’s screens this Wednesday
September 21, 7:30 p.m.
L’Etage / 624 South 6th Street / Philadelphia, PA
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Eric Rohmer’s My Night at Maud’s

According to Rotten Tomatoes, the film is “hailed as one of the most sophisticated comedies ever written.”

SYNOPSIS: In the brilliantly accomplished centerpiece of Rohmer’s “Moral Tales” series, Jean-Louis Trintignant plays Jean-Louis, one of the great conflicted figures of sixties cinema. A pious Catholic engineer in his early thirties, he lives by a strict moral code in order to rationalize his world, drowning himself in mathematics and the philosophy of Pascal. After spotting the delicate, blonde Françoise at Mass, he vows to make her his wife, although when he unwittingly spends the night at the apartment of the bold, brunette divorcée Maud, his rigid ethical standards are challenged. A breakout hit in the United States, My Night at Maud’s was one of the most influential and talked-about films of the decade.

Courtesy of The Criterion Collection

My Night at Maud’s screens this Wednesday
September 21, 7:30 p.m.
L’Etage / 624 South 6th Street / Philadelphia, PA
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SFT// Jean-Luc Godard – L’Amore

SHORT FILM TUESDAY

L’Amore (1967)

Here is Jean Luc Godard’s entry in the 1967 anthology film Love & Anger. Godard’s post-Anna Karina style is epitomized in this meditation on performance and identity in the world of mass media.

by Robert Curry

Godard’s Contextual Layering of Band Of Outsiders

Since his feature debut Breathless, Jean-Luc Godard has been deconstructing the genre film and likewise dissecting the conventions of the very medium in which he works. Band Of Outsiders was, at the time of its release in 1964, his boldest attempt at doing so and perhaps his most successful. Due to the complex and contextually layered nature of the film, the following analysis will break the film down into proportions by paragraph.

Firstly, the narration of the film, in third person respectively, represents literary convention. This seems especially true given the use of the device in Truffaut’s Jules et Jim (1962). Truffaut used an objective narration to preserve the literary aspects in his screen adaptation of Henri-Pierre Roche’s novel. Truffaut, accomplishing the latter objective, used the device simultaneously to illustrate the psychology of his characters. Godard’s use of the “narration” device is in direct response to this. Like Truffaut, Godard wishes to preserve the literary element in his adaptation (of a novel by Dolores Hitchens) as well as adding a psychological depth to his characters, which would otherwise be absent. Godard differs in his use of this device, however, in how the narrator is quite self-aware. This awareness is quite clear in a number of scenes in which the narrator does more than address the audience, but addresses it in regards to the medium in which it exists. For instance, as the three principal characters first arrive at the café, the narrator makes explicit reference to those members of the audience who have arrived late and have missed the first portion of the film. Such a tactic forces the audience to invest in the film beyond its characters and action, but in context of its technical ramifications. Godard highlights this again differently later in the film by removing the diegetic soundtrack, leaving only the narrator’s commentary during the famous dance sequence. Godard is less interested in narration as Truffaut used it, but rather in the Brechtian sensibilities it allows him to explore within the film itself.


Secondly, Godard presents his characters without the usual style attributed to the crime genre. Instead he favors a cinematic style akin to the films of Morris Engel (Little Fugitive), but with the narrative pacing of Italian neo-realism (of which Fellini’s Nights of Cabiria is a good example). Thus, the criminality of the three main characters becomes secondary to their romantic conflicts and the day-to-day living that comprises the first third of the film. Not till Arthur (as played by Claude Brasseur) retrieves his pistol from beneath the sink does the criminality move beyond pure circumstance to a driving narrative device. Godard is hence rejecting the motifs of the crime film as a director, but instead allows it to flourish in the games and pranks perpetrated by the two male leads. Internalizing such motifs that way again works, though more subtly, as the narration has. It is apparent that Godard is less interested in his narrative, as in the idea of the function of film.

Beyond the above-mentioned post-modern ideologies is the trappings signature to a film by Godard. The character Arthur is, like Godard, interested in Maoism; and both Arthur and Franz (Sami Frey) show a keen interest in how the media documents violence. Looking passed even the political, the film stars Godard’s muse and now ex-wife Anna Karina as Odile. Yet, it does seem unfair to neglect the film as a narrative entity, focusing just on the filmic aspects. It is without a doubt, one of Godard’s most humanist works in regard to his characters and how he allows them to be depicted both dramatically and cinematically. In comparison to the early films of Frank Perry (David & Lisa) or Cassavetes’ Shadows; Band Of Outsiders is their equal in its youthful exuberance and quirky nostalgia.
All this considered, Band Of Outsiders may not be the most popular film by this controversial director, but it is both heart-warmingly optimistic and essential to the director’s development. As a final anecdote; it was this film that interested Warren Beatty in hiring Godard to direct his own genre film Bonnie & Clyde, though the job of director would eventually fall to Arthur Penn.

By Robert Curry
September 14, 5 p.m.
Philadelphia City Institute Library / 1905 Locust Street / Philadelphia, PA
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