The fifth and most accessible of Rohmer's six 'moral tales', Claire's Knee is the story of the temptation of an affianced diplomat (Brialy) while on holiday, and its successful suppression. The film was rapturously received as a cinematic equivalent to Jane Austen at the time of its original release. The comparison is apt, though a better one would be with Joseph L Mankiewicz, a director of similarly literate, talky, classically structured movies, but none the less misses the point. For Brialy is no throwback to the 19th century but rather a Martian, a visitor to this planet discovering the values of his own culture through surveying those of the people he finds himself among, and finally retreating back home. If this makes Rohmer sound like a poet of bourgeois repression (just as Chabrol can be seen as a poet of bourgeois excess), one must also add that the film's self-reflexive structure makes it both more exciting and more ambiguous than such a description allows for.
Cast and crew
Laurence de Monaghan