When the movie began, I immediately noticed Jean-Claude Brialy’s hair. Who is this guy? I’ve seen him in earlier films (Paris Belongs To Us, A Woman is a Woman and Le Beau Serge) and a later film (Phantom of Liberty) but I can’t remember him. I think he might be the guy on the right in my middle screenshot of Le Coup du berger but without the beard and the hair it is impossible to tell. That hair… so distracting. Laying on the couch, I alternated between taking in the luxurious outdoor camerawork and watching Brialy’s hair. The birds fought on me for the first ten minutes before Our Bird settled on the couch in front of my head and New Bird camped on my shoulder with his tail right in my eye. So I thought about the birds, and Brialy’s hair, and the sunlight in the film, then I realized that a half hour had passed and I still wasn’t paying attention to the dialogue.
Brialy & Laura:
So maybe not the ideal screening of Claire’s Knee… or maybe it was! Either way, I got the feeling that I liked the previous two movies better, despite expectations that this would be the masterpiece of the Six Moral Tales. Seems like the Tales are wearing themselves thin. Guy in picturesque location with distant girlfriend flirts with young girls but ultimately stays with his girlfriend… it’s La Collectionneuse again.
This time the guy is bushy Brialy, spending the month before he gets married in his old home town (I think), possibly to sell the family home, though we never see him do anything productive. His co-conspirator (see also: Vidal in My Night at Maud’s) is an Italian writer with a distracting accent, Aurora. Brialy flirts first with big-haired 16-yr-old Laura, then with her (slightly older?) step-sister Claire, whose knee we don’t see until towards the end of the picture. Laura is happy to lightly play around and talk with Brialy but they both know there’s nothing serious, then he is briefly tempted by Claire, tries to break her up with her boyfriend, then comforts her when they are stranded in the rain together by rubbing the titular knee. He goes home to his fiancee, thinking himself a dark stranger who changed these two young girls’ lives, but Laura hardly seems to notice him in the last few days, and Claire is back with her boy two minutes after Brialy has left. Even if the rest of the story was nothing special, I liked this ending, which gives more of an inner life to the female characters than previous entries have done.
(R-L): Sad Claire, her knee, Brialy:
Beautifully shot by master of light Nestor Almendros the same year he did Bed & Board and The Wild Child for Truffaut. Hardly any of the actors besides Brialy had been in any films before, but most would appear in later Rohmer films from time to time. This won best film from both the U.S. and French critics societies, but lost a best-foreign Golden Globe (with fellow loser The Conformist) to an Israeli movie that isn’t out on video (which itself lost the best-foreign Oscar to The Garden of Finzi-Continis).
My (comparatively) negative feelings about this one extend to the DVD extras, too. First we’ve got a nothing TV interview with the cast, where we learn that Brialy has been Rohmer’s friend for a long time, and the girls somewhat enjoyed working on the film, and everyone is miffed that Rohmer won’t appear on the show himself. Then there’s The Curve by Edwige Shakti, a short based on a basic scenario by Rohmer. Shekti herself stars as the usually topless girlfriend of an art-obsessed young man. She challenges his remarks that he was drawn to her because she reminded him of different specific artworks. It’s a cute enough short, but its appeal lies more in watching the director’s breasts than in the uninteresting 30fps video work or the consciously Rohmer-talky dialogue.