In the movies of late New Wave director Éric Rohmer, the summer season vacation is a website for unmet wishes, ethical crises and inertia. His younger, confused creations dwell within the languorous house the place private ethics slip and loneliness and listlessness are magnified beneath the recent solar.
With countless leisure time stretched out earlier than them, they stare into the void or entangle themselves in fraught romantic relations – as within the case in his charming but bittersweet 1983 movie Pauline on the Seashore (Pauline à la Plage, the third addition to Rohmer’s Comedies and Proverbs sextet), which is at present streaming on Stan.
It’s the tip of summer season and 15-year-old Pauline (Amanda Langlet) has come to a resort city in Normandy to vacation along with her cousin Marion, a designer (Arielle Dombasle, who, along with her bulging coral necklace, exuberant hand gestures and fuzzy, blonde blow-out, is sort of – however not fairly – a caricature of a French vogue individual). On the seaside, they run into Marion’s outdated ex, the sharp-jawed, sensible Pierre (Pascal Greggory), who in flip bumps into an acquaintance, Henri (Féodor Atkine), a peripatetic (and lecherous) ethnographer.
Collectively they convene at Henri’s home for dinner and focus on love and romance – the type of earnest dialog that may solely come up out of hurried intimacy. Some traces of inquiry: is love all warmth and flash, or can it swell slowly? Does love spring from an opportunity encounter with a complete stranger, or solely with somebody ? Is blind religion higher than pragmatism? Marion, lately separated from her husband, desires to “burn” with love. “I would like rapturous delight!” she cries later within the movie. Pierre seeks a reliable companion. Herni desires to stay unmoored, led solely by his wishes. Pauline, a largely quiet interloper in these disclosures, is searching for romance that extends past a look with a 17-year-old in a restaurant the earlier summer season.
“A wagging tongue bites itself” – a unfastened translation of a quote by 12th-century poet Chrétien de Troyes – is the proverb that prefaces Pauline on the Seashore, the place misunderstandings, deceit and self-deception make for farcical ends. Everyone seems to be accused of being in love or infatuated with the fallacious individual, every slinging alternative phrases about one other’s dalliances, which come to contain the city’s ruddy-cheeked sweet-seller and Pauline’s love curiosity, a teenage boy referred to as Sylvain. It’s a reducing but variety movie about how age doesn’t necessitate enlightenment, the place the lies of adults collide with the tip of childhood innocence.
Outdoors of those amorous antics, Pauline on the Seashore hums with the languidness of summer season, punctuated by swims, al fresco breakfasts and the rare windsurfing lesson. Rohmer, a religious Catholic, noticed cinema as a method to faithfully replicate the fantastic thing about God’s creation. In Pauline on the Seashore, this creed leads to loads of understated, seasonal splendour: misty ocean vistas, purple hydrangeas in bloom and metallic bathers that stick with bronzed, salt-sprayed limbs.
Pauline on the Seashore is an efficient place to begin with the work of Rohmer. Like most of his movies, discuss is eloquent and constant; the topics are intercourse, relationships and constancy. His characters are stricken by indecision, tempted by their wishes (typically by a sort ceaselessly present in his earlier movies: the incorrigible however opaque lady), and even his most despondent people nonetheless cling to a scrap of hope, and maybe some magical pondering. Pauline, although, is a uncommon Rohmer heroine – clear-eyed and unwilling to be sucked into the adults’ charade.
“You inform your tales,” Pauline says on the vacation group’s first dinner, as if in premonition of the narratives to be spun. Whereas there won’t be a lot steering from these “oldies” in her orbit, Pauline does obtain a sage lesson about self-delusion. On the journey’s abrupt finish, Marion tells Pauline they need to persuade themselves of contradictory tales about their messy summer season romances, with a view to assuage their heartbreak. “That means we’ll each be completely happy,” she asserts, as they drive away.
• Pauline on the Seashore is streaming in Australia on Stan