English Title: Pauline at the Beach
Original Title: Pauline à la plage
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance
Director: Eric Rohmer
Writer: Eric Rohmer
Music: Jean-Louis Valéro
Cinematography: Néstor Almendros
Simon de La Brasse
Released in 1983, PAULINE AT THE BEACH is the third picture of Rohmer’s “Comedies and Proverbs” series (6 in total, started with THE AVIATOR’S WIFE 1981). The titular Pauline (Langlet) is attended by her elder cousin Marion (Dombasle), to stay in their family’s vacation home on the north-western coast of France. They are two gorgeous beauties with gaping disparity, Pauline is a 15-year-old teenager, has a darker bob cut while Marion is a model-shaped blonde and just sets herself free from a failed marriage.
On the beach, soon they attract the attention of Marion’s old flame Pierre (Greggory) and a single father Henri (Atkine), their contrast is plain to see too, Pierre is a windsurfing coach, younger and more handsome, while Henri is a bit bald, ordinary-looking. Henri invites all to dinner and they discuss about love, Rohmer effortlessly compresses their different philosophy in the conversation, Pierre is the one who lives on hope, contests in a more traditional value of love and morality, demands devotion wholeheartedly; Henri, on the contrary, is a rootless hedonist, affectionate but leaves no strings attached. For Marion, she believes love at first sight, the spontaneous sex appeal can drive her up in flames, however it should also be reciprocal, and in her case, she is quite confident since she is the paradigm of a perfect lover for any heterosexual man. Finally, Pauline, who by far hasn’t foray into the territory apart from some puppy love, surprisingly has her own stance on the subject matter – you must know people to love them, not judging the book by its page, her precociousness strikes as a stunner.
That same night, Marion becomes the one who takes the move, not to the besotted Pierre, but the rather unappealing Henri, their chemistry blazes passionately, but Pierre doesn’t intend to capitulate, his pursuit to Marion is as relentless as his repulsion to Henri. Pauline suggests Pierre is a more befitting match for Marion, and Marion proposes with the same thought, Pierre is the perfect choice for Pauline to spice up her adolescence. The upshot is the poor Pierre ends up in the friend zones of both. Pauline dates a local boy Sylvain (de la Brosse) around her age, and Henri hooks up with Louisette (Rosette), a snack-peddler on the beach, when Marion and Pauline are out visiting Mont Saint-Michel. He also fabricates a perfect lie to cover the story when Marion returns unexpectedly, leaving Sylvain as the fall guy.
Anyhow in Rohmer’s cinema world, there is no place for melodrama, the lie will unravel in its due course, but there is no undoing for Henri, he is the one can take flight at any moment, for him, it is a white lie with the best intention without hurting Marion’s feeling (although it does put Pauline and Sylvian’s relationship under the strain). Atkine deftly leavens his part with a full-on composure, downplays his libido-driven lust and convincingly gives the lecture to Pauline about how he really feels for Marion. Greggory manages to balance Pierre’s impeachable standing and behaviour with his pesky bluntness to the extent where Rohmer asks for, one could rationally concur with his standpoints, yet, in the end of the day, he slips to be the most unlikeable character in the story, while the most admirable one is Rosette’s Louisette, sky is the limit for her.
Dombasle is a bombshell in her pinnacle, but not an insipid one, she generously presents the whole spectrum of Marion’s desire, fantasy and despondency. Langlet varnishes Pauline with her primary colour, at first being upstaged by others, slowly her learning-curve of adulthood becomes the cornerstone of the film, at the final scene, which works magnificently in concert with the opening one, Marion might be the same, Pauline definitely acquire some nitty-gritty from her short stay, about both men and women, but can she excel in her upcoming adulthood? There is a bigger picture left unsaid, we are all indebted to Rohmer’s mastery and grateful to the treasure trove he bequeathed to us, which is worth discovering and revisiting from time to time.