A young man’s love is grounded by a bad weather relationship as he realizes he is only the co-pilot in the affair. Writer/Director Eric Rohmer assimilates the characters into this emotionally subdued drama by refraining from close-ups, even in claustrophobic confines, and relies on long takes in medium shots. This gives a voyeuristic frisson to the story as we peer through the drawn blinds of two static lives.
The first of the Comedies & Proverbs series, Rohmer reflects upon the maxim that “It is impossible to think about nothing”. François is dedicated to his failing intimacy with Anne; it seems the harder he grips the looser his hold. Like the narrator of Dostoevsky’s WHITE NIGHTS, he remains hopefully close to the object of his desire but fears he will always be second to his lover’s true intentions. The film begins with François leaving a note on Anne’s door as she awakens quietly in the darkness. She comes fully awake moments later when a note is slipped under the door; it is Christian descending from the heavens. Anne is soon caught between the men in her life, the turbulence driving her towards emotional isolation. François spies Anne and Christian leave the apartment together so he spends the day following the ex-boyfriend, a quest to retain the equilibrium of his vertiginous ego.
Throughout the day Anne attempts to ignore François and eventually berates him in public, even though she displays a genuine affection for his presence; this constant pushing and pulling leaves him confused. He stalks Christian in secret but doesn’t understand his own motives until the waifish Lucie offers insight by momentarily freeing him from the rigid bonds of reality. Throughout the day, they follow their mark (and his mysterious female companion) as Lucie’s imagination and naiveté breath new life into the stoic protagonist. In one scene François momentarily closes his eyes, weary from the chase, and the playful Lucie brushes his cheek and tells him that he’s been asleep for ten minutes. His unquestioning belief in her, a stranger he has only known for a few hours, contrasts his mistrust of Anne. It’s not until this moment that he recognizes the young lady as an individual entity and not just a sounding board for his own problems.
Finally, François confronts Anne’s evasiveness but remains mired in their disassociated association. He writes a letter to Lucie that explains the identity of the unidentified woman, hoping to deliver it by hand. But he again plays the part of voyeur, seeing her kissing a boy on her doorstep. She is bubbly and full of energy, something that François has forgotten about the tenor of love. He glumly disappears into the night, his resolve deposited in a steel box. Final Grade: (B+)