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My Night at Maud's (1969)
|by P. G. R. Nair|
Director: Eric Rohmer / France/French/110mts
Eric Rohmer's My Night at Maud's is an accomplished centerpiece of Rohmer’s “Six Moral Tales” series. Each in this series is a variation on a single situation: a man who is in love with one woman meets and spends some time with another woman, whom he finds supremely attractive, but with whom he does not consummate the affair. Each examines the philosophical and moral conundrums surrounding love and contemporary life.
The hero of My Night at Maud’s is Jean-Louis (Jean-Louis Trintignant), an engineer in his early 30's, a solitary but not a lonely sort, a man who at first seems to be something of a prig. He isn't. He just values himself too much—in the best sense—to waste time on superficial sexual or social experiments. Within his abiding Roman Catholicism, he also believes that he will ultimately meet and marry the right girl, who will not only be Catholic but also blonde.
During dinner with Maud and Vidal, Jean-Louis claims not to be interested in casual affairs anymore, professing a strong Catholic faith and the desire to settle down and marry. Jean-Louis, who recently began rereading the writings of Blaise Pascal, relates his situation to the 17th century philosopher’s famous wager that it was logical to believe in God, because if “he” does not exist, you lose very little by believing and gain everything if he does. From a religious point of view the wager is unsatisfying, because it does not require true faith; it’s simply playing the odds. Pascal was a Jansenist, a sect of French Catholicism that believed that salvation can only be achieved through God’s grace that is predestined, regardless of our actions. In opposition to the Jansenists, the Jesuits advocated actively pursuing a virtuous life to enable entry into heaven. Jean-Louis likes to think of himself as following the Jesuit path, but Rohmer’s scenario at Maud’s is designed to see if this is true.
Rohmer's achievement in My Night at Maud’s is that he has been able to make so much talk so unaffectedly cinematic. Most refreshing is the sight and sound of four characters who are articulate, interested, informed, educated, amused, vulnerable, totally free of epigrams and aware of their identities. Their only concern is the manner in which they will realize those identities, and whether it will be by choice, predestination or simple luck.
A series of "Hundred Favorite Films Forever"
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