How do they do it? The French, I mean, but probably Rohmer in particular. As one of the main characters says in 'Claire's knee': "nothing happened, or very little." Though they talk a lot; an awful lot. And still I come away with a foolish grin all over my face and a heart that has melted. It should not happen - the male lead is a serial philanderer who does not really know what love is, plus he tries it on with a sixteen-year old who has slightly fallen in love with him. But she (Beatrice Romand, many years later coming back to play a lead in Rohmer's Autumn tale) keeps him at arms length so beautifully neatly, playing with him in an inimitable French way... and there are many side plots, in which an awful lot is talked as well, and there are beautiful landscapes... and the picture quality is a bit fuzzy.... and still this is one beautiful, heart-warming movie. This is French film at its best: undescribable, and it works. It poses many questions (and the actors ask even more), does not give all that many answers, but it leaves me very satisfied with life and the beauty and warmth of it. Great stuff.
Claire's Knee is quite an early Rohmer, coming only one year after Ma Nuit chez Maud, although it seems more recent for its use of colour. The director was already about 50, though, and a part of it seems to be about the problem of an older creator leaning over the lives of young people, and perhaps being too concerned; hence the main character, Jerome, shocks the viewer slightly in his brazen attraction to Claire and her sister, both 16 or 17, even as he is about to marry a woman his own age (mid-30s). He is somewhat put up to this, or at least encouraged conversationally, by a woman writer of his own age, who is a sort of Rohmer surrogate, observing and analysing and looking for incidents she can use as a springboard for her own fiction. On watching the film I find Jerome callous and smug, and feel a slight irritation - and indeed shock - at his actions towards these girls, particularly the scene where he reached his goal and contact with the knee is made in a sustained way. Later, you marvel at the script which keeps the musing on sentiments going all the way through, with a supreme elegance, really, provided by the authorial distance from what is being shown. It is very elusive and satisfying in the mind's eye, if a bit frustrating in the present. Beatrice Romand is outstanding as Claire's sister, in the first of several brilliant roles for the director. If one feels alienated at first, it steals into your high esteem as an after-effect, and you're ready to watch the whole thing again. One must never underestimate the after-effect with this director - the next day modifies one's response, although for me this one falls short of his best work in terms of sheer enjoyment as it's happening. The scenery (the French side of Lake Geneva) makes an interesting adjunct to the dialogues, and is an indispensable part of the whole, according to Rohmer himself. It is an almost mystical union of action and place such as you find in all his films.
on 14 February 2010
This movie is very much of its time (1969) and place (summer, Lake d'Annecy in France). The film is written and directed by Eric Rohmer, so for those of you familiar with his work you have an idea of what to expect. Which is a lot of talking. The principle characters philosophise endlessly. As sub-titles can never translate everything being said, we have to hope that we are getting at least a good part of what's in the dialogue. The main protagonist, Jerome (from whose point of view the story unfolds) obsesses over the knee of a young (17? 18?) girl, although not in a Nabokovian Lolita-like way. All is chaste. He does eventually have an opportunity to caress said knee, but this is not really the point of the film and Claire clearly has no interest in Jerome, before or after the knee-stroke. If the movie's about anything it's perhaps about unrealistic expectations. Beautifully shot it is a visual treat, but maybe it's really for Rohmer afficionados - I'm uncertain how it would be received by a modern audience as the days of the great 'new wave' French directors have long passed.
on 29 September 2006
The story told in "Claire's knee" is pretty strange, and certainly not the kind of plot I generally think is likely to turn into a good movie. In a nutshell, a man in his late thirties (Jean-Claude Brialy) develops an obsession for a beautiful teenager, Claire (Laurence de Monaghan). To be more precise, he is obsessed with Claire's knee, and needs to touch it, exactly as her boyfriend does.
That sounds boring, doesn't it? However, it isn't. This movie isn't about Jerome, the mature bachelor who begins to believe that Claire's knee is everything he wants, or about his friend Aurora (Aurora Cornu), that spurs him to flirt with young girls so she can have inspiration for her writing. It isn't about Laura (Béatrice Romand), Claire's sister, eager to flirt with Jerome, and it is certainly not about Claire, that doesn't pay Jerome too much attention. It is a film about wanting what you can't have, and forgetting about it as soon as you get your hands on it. Moreover, it is also story about love and infatuation, and the difference between them.
Will you like this film? I think so, because even though "Claire's knee" is not one of Rohmer's best films, it is a movie that you will enjoy watching, not for the story, but rather for the conversations between the characters. This film doesn't have any answers, but it allows you to ask yourself some very interesting questions, and that is the reason why I give it 3.5 stars...
This is one of Rohmer`s most famous films, though it`s far from his best. Look to his four Tales of the Seasons, The Green Ray, or My Night With Maud for something more substantial. But it is still the filmic equivalent of a short story, albeit a very talky one, by Maupassant or Colette, or even Moravia.
Jean-Claude Brialy (who looks like he`s auditioning for the part of, say, Burt Reynolds, such is his mass of hair as well as vast beard) plays Jerome, a man on the cusp of marriage to his Swedish fiancee, on holiday by a huge lake in the mountains. He talks with his old friend Aurora, a novelist (played by Aurora Cornu, a real novelist, who seems uneasy with the camera) who between them hatch a seemingly harmless plot for her next story, to involve his flirting with Laura, the daughter of a friend staying nearby. The daughter is played by Rohmer regular Beatrice Romand, who was only about sixteen at the time, and who proved even then what an idiosyncratic actress she is, a little like our own Anna Massey in looks and style, with her careful articulation and mischievous, expressive eyes.
All goes to plan until he meets Laura`s half-sister Claire, whose knees, with their expanse of mini-skirted leg on show, entrance him...
The rest of this relatively slight film is a little less interesting, perhaps partly due to a rather colourless performance from the actress playing Claire, but also because of the lack of sympathy one can`t help feeling for the smooth, implausibly hirsute central character.
If I seem to be less than impressed, it is only because I love the films of this director so reserve the right to be critical of his lesser efforts. This is still a film well worth seeing, especially if it leads you to seek out his many other films, some of which linger long in the mind like a perfect day at the beach, a bittersweet love affair, or a glass of chilled wine on a summer day.
There`s an extra Special Feature with this DVD, a delightful, light-hearted short called La Cambrure (The Curve) from 1999 directed by and featuring Edwige Shaki as a young woman whose titular curves so inspire a young artist that they get talking and quickly move in together. She spends most of this brief film semi-naked in the most charming, gently erotic series of `poses` as she attempts to show her beau that she refuses to be objectified. It`s an enticing directorial and acting debut by Shaki, who went on to appear in just one of Rohmer`s own later films. One would like it to be longer - which I dearly wish I could say for the main feature.
on 16 February 2015
One of my favourite French films....a great study of innocence and adolesecence
on 20 December 2015
stupid belly rumbling
on 26 March 2009
A diplomat, spending some weeks in the French Alps while he sells a house, meets a former lover. The lover, a writer, is staying with another woman, who has two teenage daughters self-absorbed in the perennial teenage problem of trying to cope with the ennui of summer vacation; a seduction scenario is suggested. The diplomat flirts with the younger daughter, but develops an obsession for the older one ... and, specifically, a part of her anatomy.
This is an acclaimed film - we are told at its opening that it won an award as best French film of the year. I have difficulty imagining how bad the others must have been. The fifth of Eric Rohmer's 'moral tales', I can't understand why this film is highly rated. There is scarcely a plot - what there is had some poor echoes of 'Les Liaisons Dangereuses' (the original book, not the film) - but that is not untypical of a Rohmer film. As an exploration of narrative style, it becomes turgid. Casting one of the central characters as a writer is a fairly hackneyed, not to mention seriously hackneyed means of introducing a storytelling game into a film. But writer and diplomat speak to one another as if they were 18th century letter writers. Indeed, all the characters deliver lines, they don't have conversations, they don't talk, they don't communicate. All sense of realism disappears in the sterility and lifelessness of their conversations. Virtually nothing they do or say is believable. If this is an exploration of obsession, then the sterility of the characters becomes obsessive.
Not that the characters are likeable. The diplomat ... it may seem trite, but his hairstyle really set me against him from the start - I'll pretend that his appearance is symbolic of his self-obsession and narcissism. Meanwhile, back to the barnet, or maybe syrup - it looks and acts like a lacquered wig. Apart from one windy scene, it never moves. Not that the character is any more animated. He poses. I couldn't make up my mind whether he was modelling expensive, elegant, but slightly effeminate clothing for a catalogue, or whether he was a retired, 1960's Swedish porn star. I think he mentions at one stage that he was working in Stockholm? Not that you can seriously imagine this geezer working, know what I mean?
And as for his social skills! He paws women. Beyond the physical, he seems obsessively possessive, obsessively demanding of their attention. I can't imagine many women finding this man's behaviour attractive. He is creepy: no mother would allow him within groping distance of a teenage daughter .... and I can't believe the French diplomatic service would find a use for him, except perhaps as a suicide bomber on a Greenpeace ship. He is not believable, but neither are the other characters ... except, possibly, the fragrant Claire.
The background - occasional shots of the Alps and the lake - is stunning. But the scenes seem artificially posed. Rohmer might as well have left in the clapper board so we are reminded with each shot that this is scene 108, take 1, etc. I found the acting laboured. There is no sense of spontaneity. These are recited lines ... and, in the main, they're lines which no human being ever delivered outside of a film set. Skeletal plot, plastic characters, grating words, nice mountains.
Claire, it has to be said, is very gorgeous and very sexy - and eponymously nice knees - but this is no 'Lolita'. No nudity, no sex scenes, nothing which might frighten the servants or horses, but, astonishingly, no eroticism. Older man fancies teenage girl, well, surprise, surprise, I gather it does happen, never been guilty of it myself, of course. Here, it's all done in the best possible taste, and this amounts to one of the most boring films I've ever watched. It gets two out of five, one mark for the mountains and one for an older man's (I mean me, not the lecher) appreciation of 'Claire' (Laurence de Monaghan), lovely lassie, and I'm not just talking about her knees. Ahhhh, time for my medication.
on 25 March 2008
Thirty five years on this playful French tale about a recently engaged diplomat's fascination with two teenage girls remains the quintessential Eric Rohmer film. Quiet torments of the mind, relationship chess and the never-ending inane meandering conversations in this movie about temptation and desire.
Some films are so bad you want to walk out on them. Once in a while though, there is a film of such unfathomable boringness that you cant possibly tear yourself away. Clarie's Knee reaches that exalted level around 90 minutes in. This is motion picture boredom.
After reading all the five star reviews on the movie poster I decided it would be prudent of me to watch this famous French movie. This is a movie for old men who spend too much time thinking about young beautiful women. This movie piles cliché upon cliché, and any claims its authors may make to its serving as a parable are undermined by the ludicrously compressed and melodramatic nature of the main actor's odyssey. But be thankful it's not longer; at 70 minutes, one may still derive some perverse pleasure from the silliness of it all.