Claire's Knee ★★★★

Are Rohmer’s Six Moral Tales the best cycle of films ever made? Quite possibly. With LE GENOU DE CLAIRE I’ve seen all six of them. Words and images are rarely this complementary. Tranquil backgrounds and settings hide moral turmoil. These films, as Truffaut would say, “pulse”.

The film is shot on location by Néstor Almendros, a frequent collaborator of Rohmer (he also served as cinematographer for three of the other Moral Tales). That location is a vacation villa bordering the beautiful Lake Annecy. If the lake itself is not a sufficiently beautiful backdrop, one can always gaze at the Alps, glittering in sunlight. It is summer indeed. Jérôme (Jean-Claude Brialy) spends his days leisurely. Of course Jérôme doesn’t look at the ladies anymore as he’s getting married. It’s on the 8th of July (which happens to be my own birthday) Claire (Laurence de Monaghan) arrives. “A knock-out blonde.” She immediately catches Jérôme’s attention. To be more specific: her knee will keep him occupied.

I should also mention the very(!) outspoken Laura (Béatrice Romand) whose franc-parler makes for a couple of funny scenes. Fabrice Luchini, another Rohmer regular (and brilliant actor), makes an appearance too as Laura’s friend, Vincent.

Jérôme might think he’s doing Claire a favour, he might think that what he has done is a morally good deed, but what he in fact has done is nothing more than rationalizing and justifying his perverse desires, thereby objectifying and instrumentalising the woman he laid his eyes on. He leaves the beautiful holiday setting of Annecy thinking of himself as some kind of benefactor. Little did he know how misguided that feeling was. The audience, on the other hand, might have sensed it coming.

“Aujourd’hui, je reste spectateur.”

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