ATTRACTIVE MORAL TALE
MY favourite picture last year was "My Night with Maud," the delicious French comedy by Eric Rohmer. Only the latest Rohrner film to reach London, Claire's Knee ("A", Curzon) made me realise that both pictures belong to Rohmer's series of "Six Moral Tales".
"Moral Tales" sound welcome in the present state of the cinema, and moral tales as witty and attractive as these stories of Maud and Claire are a joy — the kind of civilised entertainment of which the cinema has been starved.
"My Night With Maud" may be remembered as consisting in large part of conversation between two men (one Catholic, one Communist) and a woman of the world. "Claire's Knee" is also volubly talkative and often slowmoving, like life.
But the talk is unusually good, stimulating and easy (Rohmer is his own writer as well as director), the settings by and on the lake at Annecy so exceptionally beautiful and the company so congenial that attention is held entranced.
The story of "Claire's Knee" sounds preposterous enough. Jerome (Jean-Claude Brialy) a Frenchman in his thirties, is holidaying near Annecy in the last weeks before he is due to be married. He meets an old friend, Aurora, a Rumanian novelist (played by Aurora Comte herself a Rumanian writer). The film is a journal of the 14 or so days they spend Ialking over old and new times.
Jerome is an ordinary enough man, what the French call moyen sensuel and of at least average male vanity. He is at pains to convince Aurora that now he is about to marry he has finished with other women—quite indifferent.
Indeed when teenage Laura (Beatrice Rol-nand) develops a crush on him, he has no difficulty in accepting her refusal to pursue matters beyond one kiss. But when he sees the lissom shapely, shining-eyed Claire, he finds himself smitten after an with a desire just to touch her knee.
How this very slight obsession is turned, pertly by Aurora's mellow, worldly-wise teasing, partly by Claire's indifference to all but her boyfriend, and partly by a touch of male self-deception into a gesture of consolation is the magic of Rohmer's movie.
Nothing contributes more to the mellow, sunny mood of this endearing film than the warmth and intelligence of Aurora Cornu, and I have never liked Jean-Paul Brialy as well as in this not totally sympathetic role. Both teenagers, Beatrice Romancl as the iofie-faide Laura and Laurence de Monaghan as the mini-model Claire, are perfect jeunes flies en flew.
"Claire's Knee' may seem marginally more contrived than the lovely "One Night with Maud". It is still a film for a treat
The story of "Sunday, Bloody Sunday" ("X", Leicester Square Theatre) is about as distressing as its title. No doubt many will be put off by the prospect of seeing the love of a man (Peter Finch) shared by a woman (Glenda Jackson) and a boy (Murray Read.)
Nevertheless on the one hand it is difficult to overlook a film which co-stars two of our best players with a promising young actor. And it is directed by John Schlesinger, who has done, as usual, a brilliant job of composing from all the fragments a whole picture of the anguished world of people preoccupied in their own triangle and the friends and neighbours who impinge on it.
On the other hand once an unmentionable subject has become mentionable (and this is a matter of fact, not of approval) the theme is fairly enough treated, though also without commitment.
The Soldier Who Declared Peace ("A". Rialto) is about a hippie drafted into the U.S. Marines. There are some amusing touches about the effect on the sergeant of his hairdo and costume, even more so of his standing on his head when he wants to relax and coming out top in all the tests with none of the right education.
I should have found it intolerably boring if it hadn't for once made sense of the sergeant's apparently savage methods of licking such types into a disciplined force to conduct modern war.