Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Le Beau mariage

The second film in Eric Rohmer's series of "Comedies and Proverbs," Le Beau mariage (1982) opens with a quote by La Fontaine, "Can any of us refrain from building castles in Spain?" which is curious for a film with no Spanish characters that's set entirely in France. The heroine, Sabine (Béatrice Rommand), is fair-skinned enough to pass for Spanish, and she certainly has a Spanish temperament. In an early scene, she suddenly decides to call off her affair with a married painter, Simon (Féodore Atkine), when their sexin' is interrupted by a phone call from Simon's kids. Out of spite, she tells him she's getting married, even though she doesn't have any prospects. Sabine isn't a likable character, and I mean that as a compliment to the film.

If you've seen any of Rohmer's contemporary romantic dramas, you pretty much know what to expect. His style is characteristically austere with minimal camera movement and almost no music. The plot is elegantly constructed and there's lots of philosophical pontificating on the nature of male-female relationships. What's new here are the particular quirks of Sabine's personality and the beauty of the film's images. Much of the film is set in the Le Mans, and Rohmer gets the most of the town's historic architecture. Furthermore, the cinematography by Bernard Lutic is gorgeous. In one scene in a restaurant, the only light source is the diffuse side-lighting that comes in through a nearby window. Still, this is Rohmer playing it safe; I prefer his more adventurous period films, like Perceval le Gallois (1978), L'Anglaise et le duc (2001) and Triple Agent (2004).

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