Saturday, April 9, 2011

FI: Pauline at the Beach (Pauline à la plage)

Pauline at the Beach (Pauline à la plage)
France, 1983
Directed by Eric Rohmer

"You don't really love her. You want her to love you. That's not the same thing."

Eric Rohmer was always an odd fit with his visually-daring Nouvelle Vague comrades: Godard was the flashy iconoclast; Truffaut, the intuitive innovator; Chabrol, the methodical emotional manipulator; Rivette, the boundary-pushing experimentalist. But Rohmer's films were outwardly simple, dialog-heavy, driven by characters and their ambiguous interactions, obsessed with their internal lives and self-created dilemmas. Pauline at the Beach is no exception.

Two women, 15-year-old Pauline (Amanda Langlet) and her late-twenty-something cousin Marion (Arielle Dombasle), go on holiday to the beaches of Normandy, where they meet men and enter into complicated romances. Through many long conversations, we learn what the characters think about life and love, but through their actions we see how well or poorly the reality matches those thoughts. Despite the film's brisk 94-minute running time, Rohmer gives everything adequate room to develop, focusing on lies, truth and manipulation. He exposes the ways his characters justify their words and actions to themselves in denial of the real emotional logic at play in their hearts, and emphasizes the importance of being honest with oneself and knowing when to let others believe their own deceptions. Well-shot by the legendary Nestor Almendros, Pauline is a gorgeous, engaging, and tender film about a girl not coming-of-age so much as coming to recognize the value of her own strength, self-determination, and sense of morality.

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