This is one of his best. I think I read on the video box that the legendary film critic Pauline Kael said that this film was, in its own way, just about perfect. I agree, I suppose, although that's not a very concrete recommendation. Bernard Verley plays a 30-something executive at a small company in Paris. His wife, played by who I think is his real-life wife Francoise Verley, is very... nice. She's a Nice Guy Bob, actually. (If a character in a movie is presented with a choice between two lovers, one will be daring and attractive and the other will be an NGB). She loves her husband without question, and she teaches music at a high school.
Bernard loves to fantasize about women. There's a truly wonderful and hilarious scene where he imagines that he has a ray gun that will convince all women to give in to his sexual requests. It is indescribable, and funny as hell. Anyway, he likes to window shop, in the parlance of our time, but he would never really consider cheating on his wife. Until Chloe comes back into his life.
Chloe, played by that one-named beauty Zouzou, used to date a friend of Bernard's in college. She was a bit of a troublemaker and a free spirit, and Bernard didn't like her, although loyalty to his friend required him to treat her kindly. She turns up at his office looking for a job, since she had recently moved back to Paris after an extended absence. Sparks fly immediately, although Bernard pretends to dislike her attention. He slowly falls for her, while pretending to his pregnant wife that he finds her annoying. Meanwhile, he and Chloe, first using innuendo and then flat-out talking about it, discuss an affair. He is tempted by the idea of a no-strings-attached fling, while she knows that once she gets him in bed, he will fall completely for her.
Like most male characters in Rohmer's films, Bernard vaccilates. First he wants to, then he doesn't. He argues, fights, and berates himself for both his indecision and for wanting to sleep with Chloe in the first place. This being the last of Rohmer's six "Moral Tales," Bernard spends a lot of time pondering the morality of casual sex.
My only problem with the film is related to the idea of the Nice Guy Bob, in this case Bernard's wife. According to my theory (which I submitted to Roger Ebert for his Little Movie Glossary), if a man is presented with two choices, one of them will be an NGB, and she will most likely be his wife. A man in a movie has more leeway in this case: if a leading woman picks the NGB, it is termed "settling for him." A man, on the contrary, can pick the NGB if she is his wife because then he is doing the responsible, manly thing. The NGB in this and many cases is not onscreen enough for the viewer to judge her character and decide whether we think Bernard's making the right choice if he goes with her. We are just supposed to take it on faith that she's the right person for him, in the event that he picks her over Chloe. In "My Night at Maud's," Maud was clearly a better match for the main character than the woman he ends up marrying. Rohmer doesn't tell us enough about Bernard's wife here for us to judge.
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