Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Le Genou de Claire (Claire's Knee) (1970)

Director: Eric Rohmer
Writer:    Eric Rohmer
Cast:       Jean-Claude Brialy, Aurora Cornu, Beatrice Romand, Laurence de Monaghan

On a holiday, a conflicted man lusts after beautiful stepsisters despite his betrothal to a diplomat's daughter. As the testimonial in the film's attached poster says, any attempt to explain the film with words will just diminish it just like the previous sentence did.

Jerome is spending his last holidays as a bachelor at Lake Annecy where he meets Aurora, an Italian writer and old friend. She tells him that her landlady's youngest daughter, Laura, has a crush on him and talks him into flirting him with her just to prove that he is interesting enough to be a subject for her in her writings. He claims that he is doing it just for her like a guinea pig but eventually falls for Laura's half-sister Claire and develops a desire to caress her knee. All this to give his writer-friend some interesting ideas and source material. All this is interspersed with chatter on love, friendship, importance of friendship in love, which comes first or should there be an order, analysis of feelings etc. 

Eric Rohmer is not for everyone but if you like Richard Linklater's 'Before Trilogy' then this should be right up your alley. Unlike Linklater films, there is at the same time a rawness as well as artificiality in some of the dialog which might sound contradictory. It had to do with the writer character but after I saw the film I came to know that she is supposed to be Italian which explains her French accent and the slow way in which she delivers it. Jerome might very well be using her as an excuse to push the boundaries. Film has got lots of subtle humor which can be contrasted with Kubrick's Lolita which is another one that dealt with similar kind of relationship at least in terms of age difference. I can't see a film like Claire's Knee coming out these days since it treads a fine line between teenage crush and pedophilia and this ambiguity will attract criticism if it was released now. The conversations between the writer and Jerome reminded me of Lars Von Trier's 'Nymphomaniac' even though the subjects are very different.   

Film is fifth one in Rohmer's 'Six Moral Stories' series. The only other film I have seen from Rohmer so far is 'A Summer's Tale' and I thought that was great as well but is more ambiguous. One thing I have noticed in the film is Rohmer lingering the camera on the character who is listening with a delayed attention on one who is talking. I intend to watch his other major works. He was a prolific director and made his last film in 2007 at an age of 87. He died in 2010 at the age of 90.

Rating: 5/5