Claire's Knee (1971): Part 2 of 2
Director: Éric Rohmer
Writer: Éric Rohmer
Cinematographer: Néstor Almendros
Producer: Pierre Cottrell and Barbet Schroeder
by Jon Cvack
Continued from Part 1...
I imagined Lake Acceny by thinking back to this old lake house my grandparents had in Indiana. It was a farshot from Lake Acceny’s beauty, but it’s where summers were spent. Jérôme is on a vacation, much in the same way as when he was a boy (given that he’s selling the place). Seeing the girl seems to remind him of the past and the freedom and excitement it contained. I know most wouldn’t consider me old, but around turning thirty was the first time I saw myself, my family, and friends as getting physically older - the crow’s feet around the temples, wrinkles beneath the eyes, some gray hairs; that my parents were showing the mental and physical signs of old age. You realize that life is going by faster and faster and that your body is now starting to fade from its ideal form and beginning its slow winding down. I think Jérôme was starting to accept that fact. Middle age has arrived and old age is around the corner, and seeing this girl reminded him of his youth. The laws may be laws, but I get the impression that Jérôme felt something fairly real toward Laura; if nothing beyond the sense of hope and nostalgia it provided..
It’s when the gorgeous Claire (Laurence de Monaghan) arrives that that love turns to lust. I imagine nearly every single guy would admit that Monaghan is attractive, and it’s almost no wonder that Jérôme was pulled away. I admired the casting of this role, in particular, as while Laura is very pretty, she's not nearly as gorgeous as Claire. For Claire, Jérôme is tempted by the touch, envious of Claire’s “older” boyfriend as the two fight constantly. There are no interesting conversations, it is simply superficial, and Jérôme is pulled toward it. There’s a brilliant scene where, after catching Claire's boyfriend cheating, they end up in a tent as the rain pours down. I honestly had no idea where this scene was going, as Claire refuses to accept his proposals, refusing to end things with the young man she’s believes she’s in love with. Of course, per the title, Jérôme goes for the knee, realizing how it’ll never go any further than that.
Closing out the summer, Jérôme and Aurora have a long post-hoc discussion, dissecting what to make of it all, and we discover that the whole time Aurora was hoping to use it for her own material. Like Jérôme, she was acting just as selfishly. It leaves you wondering why the two never got together. Speaking from what we know of Jérôme, and given the perfect casting between Claire and Laura, it seems that Aurora might just been a bit too aged for him. By comparison to the girl’s frail bodies, she was perhaps too full for Jérôme.
It’s where the tragedy kicks in - he rather have two underage girls, or his superficial and cold, yet attractive fiancee thMan the woman he can share these darkest secrets with because she’s less attractive. Rohmer never really calls attention to this fact, and I hardly even thought of it til now; and its' here that, again, the series takes on a gross superficiality; and yet in this context, a superficiality that is very true to life. I often think of how great it’d be to go back to being a teenager, going on family vacations with no concern in the world; hoping to meet a summer fling the way Kevin does from The Wonder Years. Getting older, you come to terms that they will never return. You are an adult and it’s far from always fun. Jérôme’s career as a diplomat is perfect for the character; his job is to put on an act and get what he wants. Throughout all the film, he seems so stable, and yet I think it was all a facade; that he was struggling with a deep loneliness and yearning inside. For such a simple story, this movie contains an amazing level amount of depth and study.
BELOW: The big moment after Claire's boyfriend dumps her. No subtitles but the images alone suffice
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