Boyfriends and Girlfriends (1987)

 “Some things are better left unsaid.”

In the French film, Boyfriends and Girlfriends Blanche works for the Cultural Affairs office in a small urban town. She’s 24 years old and single. One lunchtime, she meets Lea, a student, who lives with her boyfriend, Fabien. Lea and Blanche–although opposites in many ways, strike up a relationship, and soon they are the very best of friends. Blanche even begins giving Lea swimming lessons. One day, at the local swimming pool, Blanche spots Alexandre, and she’s immediately smitten. Apparently, most of the women who come in contact with Alexandre are similarly smitten. He’s a notorious ladies’ man, but he’s also known for his poor taste in women.

boyfriends and girlfriendsLea immediately begins encouraging Blanche’s interest in Alexandre, but at the same time, Lea emphasizes that he’s not really Blanche’s type. In fact, the more Lea talks about Alexandre, it seems likely that he’s more Lea’s type–at least she seems to feel the challenge of a relationship with him. Lea is also blatantly dissatisfied with Fabien, and she notes that with Fabien, “all my little games fall flat.” Lea is just marking time before they break up.

Rohmer delightfully dissects the difficulties involved in both beginning and ending romantic relationships. The delicate progress of courtship is recorded before the characters even seem to be aware of the new relationships they find themselves in. The uncertainty surrounding Blanche’s hopeful and desperate interest in the rather caddish Alexandre is touching. The characters–as always in Rohmer films–create all the interest. As a director, he enters the minds of his characters and studies their motivations through their conversations and their actions.

Blanche is sweet, pert and rather easy-going. Lea is much more elegant, complicated, and harder to please. Alexandre is very much at ease in his elegant skin. He’s confident and suave–the complete opposite of the much more sincere Fabien. The film gravitates around the idea that opposites do indeed attract–and knowing one’s ‘type’, does not necessarily lead to making better choices.

Boyfriends and Girlfriends is one of Eric Rohmer’s Comedies and Proverbs series, and this series tends to be a little fluffier than many of Rohmer’s other films. Rohmer’s Moral Tales Series, for example, includes more substantial and philosophical films which deal with weightier subject matter. The Comedies and Proverbs are lighter–less serious fare and the other five films in this series are: The Aviator’s Wife, Full Moon In Paris, Le Beau Mariage, Pauline at the Beach, and Summer. Rohmer films are always full of conversations–there is rarely action here–and most of his films seem to mention, at the very least, holidays. The characters in this film find that their romantic lives are somewhat influenced by holidays. People seem to either love or loathe Rohmer films–the most critical find the films boring and pretentious–I, however, return many times to my Rohmer collection, and I am fascinated by the characters and the relationships they form.

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Filed under Eric Rohmer, France

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