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February 06, 1974 - Image 5

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1974-02-06

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Page Five


Eric Rohmer brings his six
"moral tales" to a masterful
close with the best of his am-
biguous and erotic intellectual
games,, Chloe in the Afternoon.
The subject matter is the clas-
sic Rohmer set-up, his major
metaphor for the human ethical
predicament. The protagonist is
presented with a choice between
women, and one of which (Chloe
in this film), always represents
the boundless heights and emo-
tional disorientation of a true
The uncertain, priggish - hip
Rohmerhero always reacts the
same -' by discarding the frenz-
ied aspect of his character em-
bodied in the Temptress, return-
ing to the chaste, relative calm
of a secure, bourgeiose French
In Claire's Knee, which is also
playing all this week at Auditor-
ium A, Jean-Claude Brialy por-
trayed this character, Jerome, a
super-wordly, urbane diplomat
who summer - vacations near
his childhood home, Annecy, at a
beautiful villa. He awaits his
marriage to Lucinde, a woman
he has known for six years.
Jerome insists that all women
are the same "above a certain
level of physical acceptability,"
so that "only the intellect
counts." He insists also that wo-
men no longer interest him,
since his wife-to-be is "all wo-
men" to him.
He visits With an old friend,
the woman author Aurora, a
somewhat sly and sterile char-
acter thinly disguised as Roh-
mer the artist. She prods Jerome
into being a guinea pig by court-
ing a 16-year-old girl, Laura, to
provide Aurora with the material
she needs to complete her novel.
It becomes apparent, in his
walks and talks with the young
girl, that Jerome is definitely
still interested in women.
Eventually he has moments
where he is not sure if it is
just all a game or not, feeling
exaggerated by the precocious,
self - aware flirtings of Laura,
played with a remarkable vivac-
ity and depth of expression by
Beatrice Romand.
Laura is a gawky and some-
how more elegant version of
Lolita, and during her mono-
logues Rohmer expertly captures
gestures and attitudes that place
her on the precarious cusp of



womanhood. One watches her
during the film and witnesses a
profound and exciting metamor-
phosis in her, from a pouting
young girl to a woman that has
the sense to spurn Brialy be-
cause he is only playing. She
is the most "natural" young per-
former since Jean-Pierre Lbaud.
Jerome in turn becomes drawn
to Laura's older half-sister,
Claire, lithe and tan. As his de-
sire for Claire crystallizes in the
film, Brialy's desire becomes
centered around her knee, on
which her boyfriend casually
rests his hand.
In the highly charged sexual
atmosphere of the leisurely idyll
by the lake, Rohmer, instead of
featuring a strong sexual drive,
is interested in the rarified im-
pulse to touch a girl's knee. It
is the smallness of Jerome's im-
pulse that troubles us, for he
does not admit to passion, but
only to "an undefined desire."
Of course what develops is a
demonstration that even the,
most sober, cultivated, and
world - weary of people have no
control over their erotic im-
pulses. Jerome fulfills his by tell-
ing Claire that the boyfriend was
unfaithful; he makes her cry
and takes advantage of her vul-
nerability by caressing her knee.
Later he justifies his cruel act
to Aurora by saying that he has
committed a "good deed" in
turning Claire from her beau.
We realize at his point that
all of the subtle moral distinc-
tions (and Rohmer's characters
do nothing but wallow in talk)
are only made to illustrate the
characters' self-deceptions. And
just when the situation calls for
someone to rise up and scream
"Liars! Hypocrites! Perverts!",
the summer interlude comes to
an abrupt end, and, amid a pro-
fusion of hugging and nostalgic
cheek - to - cheek kissing, the
characters part, waving, to seek
their private destines.
Should we feel cheated, or
like Rohmer's people, vaguely
happy? While Rohmer manipu-
lates from behind the camera
(and he is a cinematic poet-
magician of the very first rank)
the actors are all subtly manipu-
lating each other, and that, fin-
ally, is all we are left with, the
numerous side - glances and
sneaky, ironic smiles.
Claire's Knee is a beautiful as
the people in it, Nestor Alemen-
dros' c o 1 o r cinematography

makes the very air seem thick
with sunlight, and the slow, lyr-
ical movement of the camera is
the perfect correlate to the world
of bourgeoise placidity, of noth-
ing but surfaces in the realm of
ambiguous sexuality.
It is the way in which Rohmer
finally satisfies this sense of ex-
pectancy in his audience that
makes Chloe such a good film.
It is again a tale of a man
drawn between two women.
One is his wife Helene, a slim
and attractive mannequin - like
oeauty, an English professor, and
the other is Chloe, a reckless and
unscrupulous girl who both frigh-
tens and attracts him.
Chloe (Zouzou) is the physical
opposite of Helen, a sensual, raw-
looking French Viva (she even
has a history of underground
films to her credit), one of those
women who live out of a suitcase.
Again, the casting of the wo-
men is impeccable.
The hero this time is Frederic
(Bernard Verley), a caricature of
the Rohmer conossieur, a young
exec whose middle-class mental-
ity stands naked. We are afford-
ed a closer relation to his foi-

bles and fantasies by hearing his
inner monologue, not just the
humorously intricate- banalities
of the conversations.
Thus we become aware of the
ironic distance between what he
thinks he is and what he really
is. In one fantasy, he imagines
himself in possession of a trans-
mitter hidden in a medallion
around his -neck that seductively
mesmerizes any woman who
passes. The dream of irresistibil-
ity is handled in a manner remi-
niscent of Bunuel's Discreet
Charm, and in fact much of
Chloe resembles it, except that
Rohmer identifies too deeply with
his characters to abandon his
compassion for satire.
Thinking of himself as riding
the crest of the crowd in Paris
"like a surfer," he is vaguely
dissatisfied with his happy mar-
riage, enjoying watching and ap-
praising women. Getting though,
the very real opportunity to sleep
with Chloe (who he sees and
confides in during his afternoon
breaks), he leaves her naked on
her bed and literally runs to his
wife, more out of cowardice than
moral imperative.

The reconciliation scene-at the
close of the film is an exalting
finish to the moral tales. It is a
nicely wrought reversal - the
important relations in Claire's
Knee are treated with shocking
casualness; here there is no ap-
parent reason, but when Freder-
is and Helene meet alone in their
home, he confesses his shyness
in front of her and she breaks
down, trembling and sobbing.
Did Helene really know about
his near - affair with Chloe? Was
she herself unfaithful? The sit-
uatiofi is more uncertain than
ever, but Helene's tears are mov-
ingly real, as the two confront
the coldness of their smooth,
successful marriage.
And so they move slowly off to
their bedroom, reminding us that
while Truffaut can be charming
and funny while telling a story
that is essentially tragic, who but
Rohmer could give defeat the
emotional release of triumph? He
is a master at the top of his
game, and he has come up with
a film that lives up to the ex-
pectations produced by his last
great film, Claire's Knee.


Vincent Price

a rtwor
We who grew up as kids in the j
50's had it lucky. I'm not re-
ferring to all that ducktailed nos-
talgia nonsense; we were too
young for that. I'm talking in-
stead about a patticular kind of
entertainment which for the mcst
part hit its zenith in the 50's:
the horror film.
Vincent Price had been a star
for twenty years when his career
deviated into Horror films. Up
to this time, most of his roles
had been of aristocrats or dile-
tantes. With director Andre de
Toth's 3-D and color House of
Wax (Warners, 53) Price was
given a whole new future in the
Gothic. Patterning himself on
the Sir Jaspars of Victorian mnlo-
drama, he soon became the epi-
tome of lecherous landlords. His
attire and well-refined accent im-
pressed audiences,tand in 19,34
he continued the trend in Mad
Magician (Columbia) and the
Fly (20th Century Fox, 58).
Finally, in the 60's the Roger,
Gorman-Vincent Price/Edgar Al-
len Poe cycle hit its stride with
The House of Usher (AIP, 60),
and The Pit and The Pendulum
(AIP, 60) and the horror indus-
try reached new dimensions. I:
is probably from these films that
Mr. Price, the terror specialist,
is best known to the American
public. They stand apart frrmn
other horror films not only be-
cause of their resourcefulness
and imagination. Call it flamboy-
ant acting; call itpazazz
whatever one choose to name it,
Mr. Price definitely has it.
Although primarily an a.-Or,
Vincent Price is equally well
known as a lover of art; he is in
fact one of the highest paid act
lecturers in the U.S. today, and
himself has a notable collection
of pre-Columbian art. It was in
this capacity that he spoke Mon-
day morning at the Michigan '

in dai"

lv life
boring," explained Price,
at they (the students) aren't
rning what they should learn:
expand the arts for life."
n conclusion, Mr. Price re-
ed one of the closing passages
m Shakespeare's Romeo and

Offered as another chapter in
the Waterman Town Hall Lecturc-
Luncheon Series, Mr. Price mix-
ed humorous anecdote with per-
sonal reflections in a highly in-
formative art critique.
"I am probably the most ir-
relevant speaker you ever knew
in your life," Price began, "but
I finally get around to my sub-
Starting with a broad definition
of art as "the creative activity
of the human consciousness from
which all spiritual creation de-
rives; art is everything." Price
then focused his attention on an
analysis of modern art:
"You know, I think that we
have limited ourselves an awful
lot in America becaue we a r e
afraid of art in a funny way. I
still find people who resist mo-
dern art, who believe only the
art of the past is good, who think
only that art must be beautiful.
I personally think it's the ar:
of the present that should con-
cern us most - that we should
enjoy it and, see what it is.'
From this point on, his lecture
became something of an emo-
tional plea, directed toward the
preservation and encouragement
of thetotal art experience. Con-
tending that many of the prob-
lems in today's societies are die
to a lack of governmental com-
mitments to the arts, Mr. Price
drew snickers from the audience
when he held up a small button
which had been pinned to his la-
pel. "It says 'You Gotta Have
Art,' and I believe that. It's
teribly important. It's probably
more important than any of us
Further criticisms were point-
ed at the ironical connections of
art with money, and at the inepti-
tude of the educational system
of America to keep up with the
changing times.
"The system is so dated and

., ' .
., t ', . . . . (. ,





at 7 p.m. only


The air is thick with summer and leisure in the surreal story of a vacationing
diplomat who says he is interested only in women's minds but then has an "unde-
fined desire" to stroke a young girl's knee. The 5th in the "Moral Tale" series
and an Ann Arbor favorite. Jean Claude Brialy, French subtitled.



Chloe is the sixth in Rohmer's cycle. A comedy of very funny, complex contradic-
tions between action and word, between image and sound, Rohmer wrote and di-
rected this, the culminating opus in his series of moral tales (La Collectioneuse,
My Night at Maud's, Claire's Knee). Bernard Veney, Zouzou.

Auditorium A
Angell Hall

(for both films)

selected to open the 1 0th
New York Film Festival

( .


4 v
Feb. 14-17-8:00 p.m.
Sunday Matinee-2:00 p.m.
at: Michigan Union Ticket Desk Feb. 6-9 (763-45 53)
.t;' /7A ! 1"'f/t!4Y i ) 1 T -Y f!"1'1r1 I I /- F 11- 7 [7 N ) ; l'




-W It n n~I A-

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