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My Girlfriend's Boyfriend
cast: Emmanulee Chaulet, Sophie Renoir,
Eric Viellard, François-Eric Grendon, and
Anne-Laure Meury

director: Eric Rohmer

103 minutes (15) 1987
Arrow DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by Paul Higson
Another cordial episode in Eric Rohmer's 'Comedies et proverbs' series, My Girlfriend's Boyfriend (aka: L'ami de mon amie) is set in the unsullied geometry of a new town populated by unnaturally calm people and starring a quadrangle of intimates as they trip from one interpersonal trap to the next. It is a calm that never breaks into a storm, and that is not a negative criticism.
   Emmanuelle Chaulet is Blanche, an employee at city hall and an unexciting kind of prettiness, though never so drab as to explain an unbelievable two years since she last was in a relationship. She joins the beautiful Lea (Sophie Renoir) at a lunch table and their friendship is spontaneous. Lea is seeing Fabien (Eric Viellard), what French women might call a handsome blonde garçon, but what the rest of womankind would call an unluckily skew-eyed but amiable lad. Later he is to confess to Blanche that he was not the one who initiated the chat in their relationship, that it was Lea who hit on him and that his lover was not even his type. The girl staying weekdays, going home to the family at the weekend, he is made to sound more of a convenience rather than a serious commitment. Later, Lea admits that he might not be the one and makes a great potential excuse for having affairs before splitting, a theoretical unbeliever in the brutalism of ditching a lover, she puts it: "I would have to leave him in slow stages. I would have to lie."
   Blanche offers to teach Lea to swim and through her almost meets Alexandre (François-Eric Gendron), and continues to almost meet him. He a ladies man, and she a lady, the obvious summation is that there should at least be the chance of a short-term something with him. "Loving him makes you ordinary, refusing him makes one extraordinary," maintains Lea in a warning. She also is determined not to become a notch on his bedpost. In their encounters the 'handsome' womanising asshole plays ignorant to Blanche, is clearly uninterested in biting when she plays hard to get, and finally confesses to Lea that he finds her blonde friend incredibly boring. In contrast to that when the impossibly up and down Lea goes on holiday without Fabien with a notion to go shopping among travel mates for a future fiancée, Blanche hangs out back home with Fabien and, she being more the kind of girl he goes for, it is only a matter of time spent in skin suits, windsurfing, bumping into one another in the brick thoroughfares of the new town, and country walks before they go to bed. Lea comes back from the holiday contrary as ever with a no go on the holiday romance front and a declaration of love full stop for Fabien. The story runs onwards until a final table scene and too-late-the-farce-moment, but Rohmer is only acting the roister-doisterer on the sitcom front and the end titles are in sight after all.
   Rohmer is the master of intelligent, cinematic meditation, the original agent evocateur (sic) of interpersonal tribulations, influencer of the many that have made modern French cinema so embarrassingly good, and continue to do so. His light palm gently leads the few characters through the anxious lanes of personal need and want. The film is superbly subtitled to run unperturbedly with the imagery. Most of the fashion is as clean as the green and the brick, all the 1980s' colours but with little of that which jars; with only one of Blanche's numbers appalling, what is virtually a blue tabard. There is a cute bit of colour co-ordination in the end of the film when, the two couplings finally settled, the clothes do not match their new partner but the other's top and tail; it points to the past relationships and also acts as a metaphor for the likely pogrom of the relationships should unrealised fantasies brew again. Let's face it, Fabien is easily led, Alexandre likes to travel from bed sheet to bed sheet, Lea is rolling ball of romantic confusion and Blanche has yet to fully discover and experience herself; as happily resolute as the tale leaves us, it could run and run.
   Chaulet is impressive and touching in her portrayal of Blanche's shyness and pain. She sobs with frustration and self-hate when alone in her bare home and the viewer is wracked on her behalf. From here the actress went on to the underground film scene, chiefly in the US in the films of Alice Wittgenstein. Sophie Renoir is an eye-catcher, her performance not to be underrated, either. She fakes the awkward non-swimming well and is infuriatingly matter of fact about her emotional experimentation, as one with her looks might well have the opportunity to behave. The fifth character in the group is Adrienne (Anne-Laure Meury) the apparent stirrer, eventually correct, last dating Alexandre, and trying to push Blanche towards Fabien. Her own perfect man is an impossible concoction: "Sort of an artiste with the allure of a young executive."
   Supporting the main feature is another rare Eric Rohmer short, this time a documentary on French architecture, Changing Landscape, narrated by Pierre Cavarry. It is a heady collection of words and pictures, a labour of love with exceptional camerawork by Charles de Breuile. On first meeting it is of odd fitting with the main feature. But with greater familiarity with his oeuvre it could support any of his films, is of key linkage with all of his work, the shifting landscapes of his separate features, a slideshow of effectively different backdrops for the emotional inter-relational stockrooms of his beloved country.

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