Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Pauline at the Beach

Written and directed by Eric Rohmer, Pauline a la plage (Pauline at the Beach) is the story of a teenage girl who spends the summer with her older cousin as they both endure love and complications relating to love. The third film in a thematic series known as Comedies and Proverbs, the film is an exploration of a young girl dealing with first love while her cousin tries to find fulfillment through love and sex only to deal with its shortcomings. Starring Amanda Langlet, Arielle Dombasle, Pascal Greggory, and Feodor Atkine. Pauline a la plage is a rich and intoxicating film from Eric Rohmer.

The film revolves around a 15-year old girl and her older cousin as they spend the summer on the beaches of Normandy where they both encounter love with some complications along the way. It’s a film with a simple premise as its writer/director Eric Rohmer play into a young woman dealing with first love but also a cousin trying to find fulfillment through sex and love as they both deal with complications with love. Notably as the titular character (Amanda Langlet) is being persuaded by her cousin Marion (Arielle Dombasle) to find someone as she meets an old flame in Pierre (Pascal Greggory) who is wind-surfing and is willing teach both women to wind-surf.

Yet, the emergence of a middle-aged man named Henri (Feodor Atkine) would change everything as Marion would pursue Henri much to Pierre’s chagrin while befriending Pauline who would also have her own first taste of love in a young man similar to her age in Sylvain (Simon de la Brosse). Still, Pauline does ask questions about love getting different ideas and answers from Marion, Pierre, and Henri which would add to confusion as well as complications for all involved. Most notably a moment where Pierre sees a naked woman in Henri’s home that would raise a lot of questions while Pauline and Marion were out visiting Mont Saint-Michel.

Rohmer’s direction is low-key in its approach to simplicity where it is shot on location in the beaches of Normandy as well as nearby locations including Mont Saint-Michel. While it features some wide shots in some of the locations as well as lot of coverage into the beaches that Pauline and the other characters go to. Much of the direction has Rohmer maintain an intimacy in his usage of close-ups and medium shots that play into these people falling in and out of love with Pierre still having feelings for Marion but is cautious into not wanting to hurt her. Even as he befriends Pauline whom he knows is too young for her but wants to ensure that she doesn’t go through some of the mistakes he and Marion made. The scene where Pierre sees this woman named Louisette (Rosette) naked at Henri’s home, it would become this moment in the film that play into not just morals but also if Pierre should tell Marion about what he saw.

Rohmer would create some compositions that play into the drama as well as shots of Pauline standing on a beach looking at the ocean. Particularly as it symbolizes this need of uncertainty and excitement yet it can also be unforgiving just like love can be. Rohmer would open and close the film with a shot of a cottage gate as it also symbolizes the start and end of something as it relates to Pauline and Marion. The latter of which is a woman who had been married before to someone she didn’t love but still has a lot to offer although Henri would tell Pauline in a monologue about his fascination for Marion but not in a way that is expected which often arouses jealousy from Pierre’s point of view. Overall, Rohmer crafts an evocative and riveting film about a teenage girl and her adult cousin trying to find love in all of its complications at the beaches of Normandy.

Cinematographer Nestor Almendros does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography with its naturalistic yet colorful look of many of the daytime exterior scenes of the beaches and homes as well as the interiors for some of the scenes at night. Editors Cecile Decugis and Christopher Tate do excellent work with the editing as it is largely straightforward with a few jump-cuts to play into the drama and bits of humor. Sound mixer Georges Prat does nice work with the sound to capture the sound of waves and other natural elements in the locations as well as scenes of music being played on a record player. The film’s music by Jean-Louis Valero is wonderful as it is largely music played on location that include elements of pop for the kind of music couples dance to.

The film’s superb cast feature some notable small roles from Marie Bouteloup as Henri’s young daughter who appears briefly in the film and Michel Ferry as a friend of Sylvain. Rosette is terrific as the candy basket seller Louisette as a woman that sells candy in the beach whom Henri is attracted to while Simon de La Brosse is fantastic as Sylvain as a teenage boy slightly older than Pauline who would become her boyfriend only to be roped into a situation created by Henri. Pascal Greggory is excellent as Pierre as a young windsurfer who was a former lover of Marion that expresses concern in her pursuit of Henri whom he isn’t fond of only to find himself trying to reveal some truths that would eventually put him into trouble.

Feodor Atkine is brilliant as Henri as a middle-aged man who lives in the beaches of Normandy as someone whom Marion would pursue yet is someone that wants more as he also befriends Pauline while trying to explain to her his desires and wants in a woman that proves to be more than just physical. Arielle Dombasle is amazing as Marion as a woman that is eager to have a good time and wants to find the right man yet still has no clue in finding the right man due to her own ideals and desire that would eventually confuse Pauline. Finally, there’s Amanda Langlet in an incredible performance as the titular character as a 15-year old girl who is trying to understand love as she would endure first love but also the many complications as it relates to Henri’s actions and how Sylvain gets roped in forcing her to try and understand everything as well as realize that there’s still so much to learn.

Pauline a la plage is a tremendous film from Eric Rohmer. Featuring a great ensemble cast, Nestor Almendros’ gorgeous cinematography, and its takes on love and desire seen by a young woman experiencing these things. It’s a film that is low-key in its presentation while asking many questions into what people want in a relationship as well as some of its fallacies. In the end, Pauline a la plage is a ravishing 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 - Claire's Knee - 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) - (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)

© thevoid99 2019


keith71_98 said...

I love your examinations of French cinema. I adore so many of these films.

thevoid99 said...

@keith71_98-Ah, merci! I hadn't seen this film in a very long time. I think I saw it in my teens only because it had nudity but ended up liking it a lot more. Probably one of the first art films that I enjoyed as I got one more Rohmer film to watch this month.