Published Nov 03, 2015Éric Rohmer's fourth comedy and proverb, Full Moon in Paris, opens with a proverb that Rohmer invented himself: "The one who has two wives loses his soul; the one who has two houses loses his mind." In execution, this assertion is presented via the educated, yet flaky and pretentious Louise (Pascale Ogier) as she present an argument for added independence to her older boyfriend Remi (Tchéky Karyo). While he's concerned about their increased time apart, she's certain that the key to happiness lies in maximizing one's own pleasure. And, unfortunately for Remi, her pleasure lies in going out to clubs alone and renting a flat in Paris, away from their suburban home, to sleep at on occasion.
Louise also maintains a somewhat unhealthy friendship with her married friend Octave (Fabrice Luchini). From him, she gets the validation and desire she craves, indulging his strained affectations while refuting his amorous advances. It's a transparent and narcissistic relationship that affords both of them the luxury of justifying their inherent selfishness.
Like many of Rohmer's films, Full Moon intimately explores the psychology of a flawed ideology. Louise, though certain of herself, is constantly met with unexpected conundrums that challenge her youthful ideals. While keeping Remi at a distance seems perfectly acceptable to her — overestimating his loyalty — she's confronted by things beyond her control, things that eventually force her to recognize the inherent folly in indulging in an ersatz Byronic lifestyle.
As noted in the supporting booklet included with this Blu-ray release and the interview snippet with Ogier after winning Best Actress at the Venice Film Festival, this was a collaborative effort; Rohmer wrote a premise that was re-written after the actors had time rehearse their roles and play out different scenes. Most of the scenes were filmed with only one or two takes, as the script was partially improvised by the characters these actors had strongly influenced. And though Rohmer made a career out of exploring complicated and flawed people with a basic literary sensibility — he's been quoted comparing film to literature several times — he struggled to contain his vision and avoid becoming discursive.
Full Moon, though occasionally indulgent and protracted, evaded these potentially tangential trappings, but despite having coherent themes about the basic folly of living entirely for the self, there's something fleeting and alienating about this deceptively supercilious comedy. In part, it's that the characters are all grotesque French caricatures, barfing up introductory philosophy and indirectly thumbing their noses at the perceived bourgeois.
Even more frustrating is the superficiality of it all; even though the characters are carefully considered and their trajectories are entirely logical, Rohmer's refusal to provide any external perspective or contextualize the vulgarity of these people makes Full Moon often difficult to watch. Arguably, Rohmer is giving the audience some room to explore their own intelligence, having more wisdom than the idiots they see on screen, but the lack of framing or gaze leaves us only with the experience of watching assholes repeatedly refuse to acknowledge their own awfulness.
However, as an exercise in restrained, observational filmmaking, this acclaimed comedy does excel overall. The lack of judgment and lack of forced perspective style respects the audience enough to allow them to draw their own moral conclusions, which is a rarity within the lexicon of cinema.