22 July 2001 | DeeNine-2
Warm, sensual and beautifully presented
The title of this charming film by Eric Rohmer is perhaps too provocative. It really gives the wrong impression, yet Claire's knee is exactly the central point of the film, although in a way that will surprise you. This is the story about a thirty-something year old diplomat, Jerome Montcharvin, who encounters two pretty girls, sixteen and eighteen years old, while on vacation at Lake Annecy in France (near Lake Geneva, Switzerland) a month before his wedding and finds that they affect him more strongly than he might have expected. It is especially Claire who brings out a side of his personality that is seldom exposed, much to the merry interest of his friend, Aurora, a writer, who has guided his interest in the girls, ostensibly as material for a story she is writing. Claire's Knee, it need be said immediately has not so much to do with the pretty girl's knee as it has to do with the protagonist's self-perception. Jean-Claude Brialy, who plays Jerome Montcharvin, brings a veracious mix of smug confidence and little guy vulnerability to the part spiked with a clear case of self-delusion that illuminates his character very well. And the girls are indeed very pretty, with Laura, played with coquettish innocence by Béatrice Romand, also being clever and slyly sophisticated, vulnerable and honest. In contrast Claire, played by Laurence de Monaghan, whose fawn-like beauty is perfect for the part, seems superficial and ordinary and a bit distant. I found myself more attracted to Aurora, played with a gentle and understated irony by Aurora Cornu. She provides the objectifying point of view for us to realize that while Jerome imagines he is a man in touch with his feelings and has an objective understanding of himself, he is really a man who fools himself about his motivation, a man who can be ugly when frustrated, as he is by Claire's lack of interest in him. The dialogue, written by director Eric Rohmer, which some have found excessive is anything but. It is instead clever and witty and at times profound as Rohmer relentlessly explores the nature of love, sex, sensuality and self-delusion. The cinematography of the lake and the French alps in the summer time is luscious, and the privileged, softly indulgent life style of the characters living around the lake provoked a twinge of jealousy in my soul. This is a beautiful film, worldly wise, warm, sensual and subtle as a dinner by candlelight.