VIDEO: Rendezvous in Paris

Rendezvous in Paris
New Yorker Video


F or a movie about three illicit affairs, this is a decidedly unsexy film. Only one of its unrelated short stories ("Mother and Child 1907," named for a Picasso painting) verges on anything like chemistry: A fickle, myopic artist (Michaël Kraft) ditches one date in favor of another (Bénédicte Loyen) and a pointed, playful conversation about the failings of romance ensues. But maybe unconsummated desire is part of veteran director Eric Rohmer's point that the forces driving someone to have an affair may have more to do with ego, control, and fantasy than desire per se.

In all three episodes, philandering lovers, wrested from the warm apartment they share with another or from the phone that the wrong lover may call at the wrong moment, seem to have little choice but to seek the most out-of-the-way cafes, parks, and stairwells for their secret rendezvous. And this provides the most delightful aspect of the movie, as the Paris that emerges is both the city in which its surreptitious inhabitants live and the one in which they become its necessary tourists. Rohmer's camera follows them everywhere, setting up contradictions between the familiar cafe they might frequent with friends and the obscure one they are obliged to explore for the first time, as if it were home, or bed. And in the absence of sex, there's a lot of room for talk in this movie--talk that reveals the characters as, for the most part, catty, manipulative, and generally fucked up. They are more willing to feign intimacy than commit to it, more excited by the intrigue of their elaborate encounters than by the actual time spent. These public displays would seem to merit the comment "Get a room"--except that none of the lovers actually likes each other. And while heartbreak would seem imminent, the games these people play end up damaging their trumped-up egos more than their well-protected hearts. Nevertheless, Rohmer makes their shortcomings fascinating rather than incidental, as the cold failure of these relationships becomes, by default, the most meaningful thing the characters share.

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