Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Chloe in the Afternoon (1972)

Eric Rohmer's closing film in his Moral Tales cycle, about a married man who becomes involved in an offbeat releationship with the former flame of an old friend, has as its main concern the difference between the ephemeral and the evergreen. What I like about Rohmer's take on this is that he doesn't set it up as a black-and-white dichotomy; Frédéric is restless in his stable life, but he's not unhappy. He dreams of hypnotizing women to bend to his will and he enjoys watching women walk by on sidewalks and in cafes because "you don't see them grow old," yet none of this has been damaging to his marriage -- rather, he takes this possibly-destructive desire and channels it into his love for his wife. The red flags fly when Chloé wanders into his life, but the danger comes not from the simple act of temptation as much as it does the increasing amount of time Frédéric devotes to his afternoons with her; and how that leads into a sort of commitment. His pleasure in the temporary is threatened by the presence and personality of Chloé -- she takes every opportunity to shatter the fantasy image of The Single Girl, using her acidic tongue ("I know you're not a friend") and spatial distance (she disappears for weeks on end and speaks of never letting people into her apartment) to create a level of desire within Frédéric that can't be satisfied by his harmless thoughts. Despite her spiky flightiness (sharply portrayed by Zouzou), I think that Chloé does indeed fall for Frédéric, which would justify the literal translation of the French title (Love in the Afternoon); the crucial quandry, though, is whether the feeling is mutual on his part. Without revealing anything, I'll say that the final scene, in this respect, is a beautiful intertwining of the film's two driving impulses. Rohmer's finest and subtlest touch is the presence of time itself -- note the calendar in Frédéric's office and how it keeps up with the progress of the plot. The message seems to be: time is fleeting, spend it wisely.

Grade: B


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home