16 February 2021

Éric Rohmer's La Boulangère de Monceau | The Girl at the Monceau Bakery (1963)


This film is the first of Rohmer's Six contes moraux, of which the rest in the series are: La Carrière de Suzanne (1963), La Collectionneuse (1967), Ma nuit chez Maud (1969), Le Genou de Claire (1970), and L'Amour l'après-midi (1972). The future director Barbet Schroeder first appeared in this film as the student, Jaqueline (Claudine Soubrier) is the baker's assistant, Sylvie (Michèle Girardon) is the original desired woman, and Bertrand Tavernier is the narrator.

Filmed around the area of Le Parc Monceau (of which La Rotonde (now public toilets) is seen here), the law student uses the local cafés and is talking to his friend Schmidt (Fred Junk) when he sees a young woman with whom he'll become obsessed: Sylvie. He literally bumps into her one day, although he daren't say more than a few words. He spends a great deal of time wandering around the area, particularly rue de Lévis, but doesn't find her again.

His diet as a student is mainly bread products, and he shops at the baker's in rue Lebouteux for sablés, gâteaux Lorrains, etc. He vicariously builds up a slow relationship with the young assistant Jacqueline, and eventually asks her to go out with him, to which she eventually agrees. However, on the day of the date he again bumps into Sylvie, who twisted her ankle the day after he met her. For some time she has been watching the student out of her window opposite the baker's. The student loses interest in the assistant and they're married six months later.

On French Wikipédia, regarding this film, an apparent quotation from Rohmer is given: 'Tandis que le narrateur est à la recherche d'une femme, il en rencontre une autre qui accapare son attention jusqu'au moment où il retrouve la première' ('While the narrator is looking for one woman, he finds another who monopolises his attention until he finds the first woman again'). This sentence could sum up most films in this series.

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