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Eric Rohmer Collection

The Eric Rohmer Collection boxset includes the following eight DVD titles:

The Aviator's Wife
Full Moon In Paris
A Good Marriage
The Green Ray
Love In The Afternoon
The Marquise Of O
My Girlfriend's Boyfriend
Pauline At The Beach

The retail boxset was released by
Fremantle Home Entertainment and
Arrow Films, on 23rd May 2005.

The Aviator's Wife
cast: Philippe Marlaude, Marie Riviere, Anne-Laure Meury, Mathieu Carriere, and Philippe Caroit

writer and director: Eric Rohmer

102 minutes (PG) 1981
Arrow DVD Region 0 retail

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by Paul Higson
The Aviator's Wife (aka: La Femme de L'Aviateur), the first in Eric Rohmer's Comedies et Proverbs series of films, is a snaky little thimblerig. It hides from you. Winds you up. It's awkward on the sly. There is a sense of balance, but inside everything's ever so slightly, barely noticeably, askew. Bravo now and again the organics and dynamics of low-budget filmmaking. Not a bad thing either, not a bad thing at all. So little happens, so much too. It's worth a thousand Hollywood opuses.

Francois (Philippe Marlaude) is a student working a nightshift at the post office and in love with a slightly older (quel importance!) woman, Anne (Marie Riviere). There is a relationship, there is a bed, there is sex... but, and it is a lowly but, she awakens one morning to a knock at the door. It is her ex-lover, an airline pilot, Christian (Matthieu Carrere), back after three months away and only to inform her that the affair is at a very end, his wife is pregnant and they are to rescue their marriage through it. A trick is played on the viewer here, unfair on one of our characters, and to go into it would be to spoil the carefully indulged device. Over the following day Anne is standoffish with, brusque to and maddening with her current beau, or at least the parts of the day in which she feels unfortunate enough to have crossed paths with him. Among her working acquaintances and social habitués she makes of him a dispensatory joke, a nuisance, a boy with an infatuation. She avoids him at lunch, hastens away for a next appointment and refuses to take the phone when he calls. She softens only when he tells her, having sought her throughout the day, considerate to her wish not to be contacted at home, but missing all other attempts to give her the message, that he has found her a plumber to take care of her pipes problem. We can only come to the conclusion that she is horrible and he is being used.

Unknown to her Francois has seen her leave her apartment building with Christian in tow. At first he kerbs his jealousy, but upon a chance seeing of the pilot at the station meeting a dour blond, he is prey to the pull to spy on him. The bus journey and stroll through Les Buttes Chaumont brings him into contact with a young multilingual student, Lucie (Anne-Laure Meury) who claims to be 15, is both amusing and amused by him. She sees through his tales and ends up as assistant amateur detective with him for the next few hours.

Francois catches up with Anne, who has accepted a dinner date with an old friend and wishes only to catch forty winks before going to it. Cue another long scene and conversation, with Anne mentally pushing and shoving her young lover, then reeling him back in again. For all her proclaimed disenfranchisement with love and relationships, it is revealed that undeniably romantic notions hold her sway and bind her to Philippe.

If you have seen the pretty and pretty infuriating Marie Riviere in Rohmer's The Green Ray, made shortly after, her presence doesn't half worry one that she will serve the same function here. The immediate effect is that she is not so much irritating but loathsome. Bigger than that though she is alive, and is a distinctly different tortured moo here. Sequences, rarely shared by more than two characters, are lengthy. In the final of the long scenes, played out in her rooms, Rohmer follows the actress in a medium shot as she squirms around her bed, her slender body screaming from the white vest and skimpy knickers at the heterosexual male audience. She strikes desire and horror in us.

These long scenes slowly knot and then slowly unravel into something else like some kooky magician's trick. The story is told with the fewest of central characters. The film's apparent balance is no such thing at all. We spend the most part of the film with Francois, and Christian's spoken scenes are few but the three are a constant albeit dissipating triangle throughout. With her contribution limited to the middle of the film, Lucie acts as a titanium pivot for the film, a centralised, light-hearted reprieve from the paranoia and doubt. So much is assumed about the film and everything assumed is wrong. There comes a point when you realise that seven o'clock repeatedly arises. In the morning Francois finishes his shift on the hour and Anna's evening dinner appointment is at seven and you suspect the director aims to tell his story over a 12-hour gimmick period. But no, we see Francois at work before clocking off and settling up a couple of things after dark at the close of the film.

In the disc extras there is an interview with Rohmer from the time of the film's release. Rohmer discusses the making including something that is already apparent from viewing the film. The schedule of the shoot was considerably longer than the day during which the action was set and this invited weather that would contradict the many exterior scenes. Early in the film it is clearly dusk, a car headlight reminding us of itself against a wall in the dim light. The morning shoot promises pleasant weather and while the sun is out in some scenes it is gloomy in others. Then comes the rain. It got so that Rohmer wrote in dialogue accounting for the weather in a forecast of fine with possible rain. As this comes from Christian, it is something that a pilot would be aware of and one wonders if his occupation and the title of the film came later too. The wild weather changes are too off. I had missed this while viewing the film but would never anyway have fallen for it.

The Aviator's Wife is a worthy addition to Arrow Films' Rohmer collection, and if you missed buying them individually then the forthcoming boxsets could be a real saver.

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