“A myriad possibilities were out there waiting.”
Full Moon in Paris (Les Nuits de la Pleine Lune) is the fourth film in director Eric Rohmer’s Comedies and Proverbs series, and this film is inspired by the proverb: ‘A man who has two women, loses his soul. A man who has two houses loses his mind.’ As with many Rohmer films, Full Moon in Paris explores the mysteries of human relationships.
Interior designer trainee, Louise (Pascale Ogier), works in Paris, but lives in the suburbs with boyfriend, Remi (Tcheky Karyo). The very traditional Remi, who works for the town’s planning department, wants to get married, but Louise drags her heels, and says she needs ‘space.’ She decides to renovate her apartment in Paris and rather than rent it out, she keeps it with the idea that she will use it once a week. Remi objects, but Louise is adamant that she needs time to herself. She claims: “the experience I’ve missed is loneliness.” Louise wants to stay in Paris on Friday nights and attend parties–without Remi, and this becomes a point of contention between them. Remi accepts it, but he doesn’t like it. It’s clear to the viewer that the last thing Louise wants on a Friday night in Paris is to be alone.
While Louise ploughs her time, energy and attention into her Parisian pied-a-terre, her home with Remi remains bare and has that barely unpacked look. The two homes are in stark contrast to one another. Louise’s Parisian apartment is tiny, cozy and stamped with her personality. On the other hand her home in the suburbs is impersonal and untidy.
On Friday nights, Louise begins to attend parties either alone or with a male friend, Octave, in attendance. Octave (Fabrice Luchini) is a writer, and although he’s married and has a child, he admits that he loves seducing women. He’d like to seduce Louise, but she argues that she really isn’t into the physical side of a relationship, so their relationship boils down to discussions that consist of Louise’s largely untested and self-focused opinions about relationships, and Octave trying to argue Louise into having sex. Octave is a little bit of a voyeur, and there’s the sense that he also enjoys observing Louise for material for his next novel. Some of the best scenes occur between Louise and Octave–two egoists who imagine that everyone else exists for their benefit.
Pascale Ogier plays the character of Louise well. Her hair annoyed me beyond reason, but her acting was excellent. Lacking any true introspection, Louise is slightly prim and proper, shallow, selfish and not particularly intelligent. Unwilling to commit, she analyzes her life with herself as the center of her universe while objectifying Remi. In the beginning of the film, Remi goes halfway to meet Louise’s insistence that she remain in Paris and party on Friday nights. Remi attends a party, and I can’t really say that he’s ‘with’ Louise as she is obviously flummoxed when Remi arrives. For the brief time he’s there, Louise ignores her fiancé, and dances with a musician. But then when Remi leaves, understandably annoyed and uncomfortable at being ignored at a party full of Louise’s friends, she pouts and turns on the tears. Just like the saying, Louise “wants to have her cake and eat it too.” And that translates, in this case, to Louise wants to have a steady relationship with Remi, but she wants to be single once a week with Remi alone at home wondering what she is up to.
There are so many great scenes in this film, but one of my favourites takes place at Remi and Louise’s home in the suburbs. Louise has returned home and as usual she begins playing her little emotional games with Remi, and this time, Remi, who’s a fairly stoic character, shows his impatience.
Fabrice Luchini, one of my favorite French actors is wonderful as always in this film. All too often, he is relegated to the supporting male role. Luchini as Octave follows Louise around looking desperately for a crumb of hope that she’ll eventually wear down and have sex with him, but in spite of Octave’s designs on Louise’s body, their relationship remains interestingly cerebral. Luchini’s facial expressions are wonderful; he has a sort of fanatical joy at times, and in this film, his eyes gleam when he discusses future plots and possible trysts with Louise. Octave and Louise seem an unlikely couple–although this doesn’t deter Octave in the slightest. The fact that Louise lacks intelligence and introspection does not cool Octave’s ardor. And even Louise’s little cat-and-mouse game serves to fuel his lust rather than deter him from his goal. His eyes swell with anticipation as his glance sweeps Louise’s body, and really these two—Louise and Octave deserve each other.
Full Moon in Paris is one of the very best Rohmer films. It is full of delectable revealing conversations between the characters, but perhaps the most revealing conversation of the film is the conversation between Louise and an unidentified artist (Laszlo Szabo). It’s the artist, who’s just listened to a litany of Louise’s self-inflicted woes, who points out that the men in Louise’s life have some say in what happens. And it’s this idea that never occurred to the self-focused Louise. If you’ve watched and enjoyed other Rohmer films, you will enjoy this film and its examination of the often unspoken struggle for power within relationships. Most people either love or hate Rohmer films–there seems little middle ground here. And as for me, Rohmer is one of my very favourite directors.