19 February 2021

Éric Rohmer's Le Genou de Claire | Claire's Knee (1970)


The idea of this film, the fifth in the series of Rohmer's Contes Moraux, seems more than a little ridiculous: a thirty-five year-old (who surely should know better) falls in love with an eighteen-year-old girl's knee, and is fulfilled when he eventually manages it. Of course, there's a lot more to the film than that, although not too much. But amazingly it works and this is one of Rohmer's better earlier films: in fact it's quite fascinating.

Cultural attaché Jérôme (Jean-Claude Brialy) bumps into an old friend Aurora (Aurora Cornu) in Talloires, Lac d'Annecy. She's a writer of romantic novels, and has been inspired by Jérôme's exploits to write previous ones. Through Aurora he meets Mme Walter (Michèle Montel) and first her fifteen-year-old daughter Laura (Béatrice Romand), who obviously soon falls in love with Jérôme: the fact that he's due to be married in a week's time seems to be more of an issue than the fact that Laura is a mere schoolgirl, but then this is France in the seventies, when paedophilic ideas were, er, shall we say fashionable?

Anyway, Jérôme's outings with Laura are chaste, and although he becomes infatuated by Laura's half-sister Claire, his activities there too remain chaste: there's some displacement, though, and he isn't interested in her unseen vagina but her permanently visible knee. Aurora's clearly making mental notes for a future novel as Jérôme tells her his secrets, but his opportunity fortuitously comes when he motors Claire across the lake and they shelter in a downpour: then, he tells her that her boyfriend Gilles (Gérard Falconetti) is not a fit person to be with as he's cheating on her. Claire breaks down crying, and the only way he can console her, well, is just to get off on rubbing her knee for a time. As some might say: whatever floats your boat.

The miracle-maker Éric Rohmer has created a truly compelling movie out of nothing: brilliant!

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