Friday, February 15, 2019

Claire's Knee

Written and directed by Eric Rohmer, Le Genou de Claire (Claire’s Knee) is the story of a diplomat who meets a young girl whose stepsister has him falling for her a month before his upcoming wedding. The fifth film in Rohmer’s Six Moral Tales, the film is an exploration of temptation and longing where a man pines for a young woman while observing her relationship with a young man who treats her terribly. Starring Jean-Claude Brialy, Aurora Cornu, Beatrice Romand, and Laurence de Monaghan. Le Genou de Claire is a ravishing film from Eric Rohmer.

Set in Lake Annecy for the month of July, the film revolves around an engaged diplomat who meets an old friend where he later befriends a young girl whose stepsister has caught his eye. It’s a film that plays into a man going on a vacation as he’s about to get married where he is trying to observe those around him as well as raise questions about his upcoming nuptials. Eric Rohmer’s screenplay has a unique structure where the first half of the film is about Jerome Montcharvin (Jean-Claude Brialy) spending his time at Lake Annecy where he meets his old friend in the novelist Aurora (Aurora Cornu) who is surprised by the news of his engagement.

Jerome would meet a young girl named Laura (Beatrice Romand) who lives near Aurora who is also a friend of mother as Laura is learning about love where she would have a crush on Jerome. When Laura’s older step-sister Claire (Laurence de Monaghan) arrives for the film’s second half, Jerome is intrigued by her. Most notably her knees as it would be an obsession while he would turn to Aurora about his fascination towards Claire as well as his disapproval in her relationship with a young man in Gilles (Gerard Falconetti) whom he feels doesn’t treat her well.

Rohmer’s direction is definitely simplistic in its presentation where it is shot largely in Lake Annecy where it is this world between France and the Swiss Alps near Lake Geneva. While there are wide shots of the location including its mountains and nearby town, much of Rohmer’s direction is relied on intimacy and exchanges between the characters. Notably in the first half where it’s about Jerome and Laura where the latter would learn about the ideas of love as she would ask Jerome why he’s getting married. The usage of close-ups and medium shots add to the conversations where Rohmer emphasizes on the latter and some precise compositions for the characters to interact as well as observe some of the action that is happening. Most notably in the film’s second half when Claire is properly introduced where she is seen reading and in her bikini where Jerome asks her where is Aurora and Laura. The relationship between Jerome and Claire doesn’t begin right away until Jerome helps Claire and Gilles get some fruit where he takes notice of her knees.

There is a conflict that Jerome would endure as he would converse with Aurora about pursuing Claire but also deal with the moral implications that include telling her about Gilles. Even as he also thinks about Laura who is already having her own first idea of love with a boy her age as the film’s climax that revolves around Jerome and Claire is an indication of what Jerome knows and what he’s thinking about. It is followed by an aftermath that is shown from Aurora’s perspective of what happened where one character does learn something but another still has lots to learn about love. Overall, Rohmer crafts a riveting yet compelling film about an engaged diplomat’s attraction towards a young woman.

Cinematographers Nestor Almendros, Jean-Claude Riviere, and Philippe Rousselot do amazing work with the film’s cinematography with Almendros leading the charge with its naturalistic photography of many of the film’s locations as well as a few of the scenes set at night. Editors Cecile Decugis and Martine Kalfon do excellent work with the editing as it is largely straightforward with a few jump-cuts for some of the dramatic moments of the film. The sound work of Jean-Pierre Ruh and Michel Laurent do terrific work with the sound as it is largely straightforward with the way it captures many of the sounds on location.

The film’s superb cast include a few notable small roles from Fabrice Luchini as a young man named Vincent that Laura would spend time with during the film’s second half, Michele Montel as Laura’s mother, and Gerard Falconetti as Claire’s selfish boyfriend Gilles. Laurence de Monaghan is fantastic as Claire as a young woman who is in a relationship with a young man who doesn’t treat her well as she is fascinated by Jerome but doesn’t initially find him interesting. Beatrice Romand is excellent as Laura as a teenage girl who would have a crush on Jerome as she is learning about the ideas of love while having many questions about adulthood as it’s a reserved yet mature performance from Romand.

Aurora Cornu is brilliant as Aurora as a novelist friend of Jerome who is the film’s conscience of sorts as a woman whom Jerome turns to as she also observant of everything else around her. Finally, there’s Jean-Claude Brialy in an amazing performance as Jerome Montcharvin as a diplomat set to be married where he deals with the presence of Claire but also Laura’s crush as he turns to Aurora for advice but also reveal a lot about what goes into being in love as he observes Claire’s relationship with Gilles from afar and with disdain towards Gilles in her treatment of Claire.

Le Genou de Claire is a tremendous film from Eric Rohmer. Featuring a great cast, gorgeous locations, beautiful cinematography, and a touching theme of love and longing from afar as well as young love. The film is definitely one of Rohmer’s finest as well as a film that explore the morality of young love. In the end, Le Genou de Claire is a spectacular film from Eric Rohmer.

Eric Rohmer Films: (The Sign of Leo) – The Bakery Girl of Monceau - Suzanne's Career - (Paris vu par-Place de l‘Etoile) – La collectionneuse - My Night at Maud's - Love in the Afternoon (1972 film) - (L’enfance d’une ville) - (The Marquis of O) - (Perceval le Gallois) - (Catherine de Heilbronn) - (The Aviator’s Wife) - (Le Beau Mariage) - Pauline at the Beach - (Full Moon of Paris) - The Green Ray - (Four Adventures of Reinette and Mirabelle) - (Boyfriends and Girlfriends) - (Les Jeux de societe) - (A Tale of Springtime) - (A Tale of Winter) - (L’Arbre, le maire et la mediatheque) - (Le trio en mi bemol) - (Les Rendez-vous de Paris) - (Summer’s Tale) - (Autumn Tale) - (The Lady and the Duke) - (Triple Agent) - (Romance of Astrea and Celadon)

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