English Title: The Aviator’s Wife
Original Title: La femme de l’aviateur
Language: French, English
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Director/Writer: Eric Rohmer
Cinematography: Bernard Lutic
María Luisa García
Now I can safely deem I have reached an approximate age to watch Rohmer’s canon, mid-30s is a ripe age to broach more cerebral film viewing activities, so my first and random pick is THE AVIATOR’S WIFE, Rohmer’s first part of Comedies et Proverbes (6 parts in all) series.
The film is capsulized in one-day’s span, Francois (Marlaud), a young student whose night shift makes the relationship with his girlfriend Anne (Rivière) in strain, after witnessing Anne left with her ex-lover Christian (Carrière) from her apartment in the morning, and later a sour altercation with Anne, a jealousy-driven Francois compulsively follows Christian and his blonde companion (Caillot), and by happenstance he meets a 15-year-old schoolgirl Lucie (Meury), the two improvise an amateurish but perky private detective team until they find out Christian goes to visit a lawyer. After Lucie departs, Francois visits a stress-inflicted Anne, it seems they reconcile and Francois figures out who the blonde is. When the night falls, Anne is out for an exhausting date and Francois accidentally finds Lucie kiss another boy, so he sends a postcard to her and put a closure to their stalking adventure, the story ends.
There is no big twist or melodramatic plots in Rohmer’s film, he masterfully recounts the dribs and drabs of emotions pestering one’s relationship and daily lives, visceral and empathetic, he unerringly captures the quirks and fluctuations of the characters he writes, no larger-than-life frills, everything returns to an authentic basis which reflects its transfixing mojo, for example, the intricate discovery of the blonde’s identity is casually schemed, but never condescending or audience-pandering, truth reveals itself in its most trivial form, also in the park, when Lucie intends to take a Polaroid from two tourists, its unforced verism never feel redundant in spite of its overlong progress which would be trimmed in most cinematic presentations, but Rohmer is confident to let his audience to savor the subtle interactions among the players and keeps it vibrant.
The sad trivia of the cast is Marlaud would soon die in a tragic camping tent fire accident after completing this film, he was only 22, in the film he interprets a sensitive and diffident boy, who is smitten with Anne, an independent working girl 5 years older than him, their on-and-off rapport is under close scrutiny, and Rivière takes on a more difficult role and dominates the screen especially during her expository declaration of her credo in self-reliance in her tiny apartment. Meury is a delight in the midstream, maybe too quick-witted for a 15-year-old, but her natural self-confidence could easily win audiences over.
The titular wife only exists as a glimpse on a picture, whose backstory would illicit another film feature to expound an existential individual’s philosophical quandary about affection and compromise. Sadly, there is no Rohmer in this world anymore.