The Aviator's Wife

The Aviator's Wife

***

Reviewed by: Koukla Maclehose

A quintessential Rohmer. With its qualities and it's flaws...

The story is minimal. This is not what interests Rohmer. It's all in the tone.

Copy picture

Usually, he uses non-professional actors. Apart from Fabrice Lucchini (Ridicule), who looks unbelievably young and appears for about two minutes, and Matthieu Carriere, whom I did not recognise at first, the others are unknown to me. A pity, for the main actress (Anne-Laure Meury), a blue eyed girl with long dark hair, is not only ravishing, but fills the screen as soon as she appears. The atmosphere reminds me of Truffaut's Baisers Voles, with the hesitations and awkwardness of the young men, who are like puppies, full of desires and totally unsophisticated in front of these young women, who are so much cleverer than they are.

Our hero Francois (Philippe Marlaud), a 20-year-old law student, who works twice a week at night in a post office to earn some money, is desperately (a very un-Rohmeresque word for one who shuns the extravagance of extreme emotions) in love with a thin girl called Anne (Marie Riviere). She must be five, or six, years older and treats him abominably. One morning, he sees her coming out of her appartement with a young man dressed in a suit and carrying a brief case.

It is the famous aviator of the title!

Anne claims she has not seen him for months and had told Francois that their relationship was finished. Now the aviator has reappeared to tell her that he won't come back, because his wife is expecting a child and is joining him in Paris to live with him. Later that day, Fran├žois confronts Anne. She screams and sends him away, then bursts into tears. Clearly, he is at a loss what to do.

The following morning at the train station, he sees the aviator with a not particularly attractive woman - we never see her very closely - whom he believes must be his wife. She has short blond hair and walks briskly. They climb on a bus and he decides to follow them.

He finds himself sitting in front of a lovely schoolgirl, who looks at him with a curious and ironic air. That is when the film starts taking another tack. Until now it has felt like a bad copy of an early Truffaut. But this girl fills the screen with her beauty and demonstrates once again Rohmer's talent in catching the special grace of adolescence, when a girl is not yet a woman, so perfectly at ease and natural - Le Genou de Claire comes immediately to mind.

The four of them get out at a stop near the Buttes Chaumont, a wonderful public garden in the north of Paris, and even if Francois and the girl make a game of following the aviator and his assumed wife, it is what happens between them that becomes the core of the film. She takes the situation in hand, mocks him and charms him and brings meaning to the film.

I'm not sure that this is vintage Rohmer. It's a bit dated. I felt exasperated by Anne, who is spoilt and superficial. The boy is not particularly attractive, but he has the gauche innocence and directness of youth. The one who is just delicious is Lucie, the young student. She is mischievous, lovely to look at, with the most enchanting smile and speaks with a slight accent that I could not pinpoint.

Of course, as in other Rohmer films, Paris plays a big part, seen through the windows of buses, the metro stations and their art nouveau gates, the avenues ranked by chestnut trees, the cafes and brasseries... a city for romantics!

You have to reach the end to experience the pleasure of the music, which only plays when the film is over and the credits are rolling. It's a song about Paris, sung by Arielle Dombasle, and is truly wonderful.

I'm not sure I would recommend this Rohmer in particular. Better go back to La Collectionneuse, or Le Genou de Claire. But again, I have not seen these for ages. They may have aged, too.

If you enjoy this French way of filming, I would recommend the modern version of Comedies and Proverbs, the films of Agnes Jaoui, particularly Look At Me (Comme Une Image), a masterpiece.

Reviewed on: 28 May 2005
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The Aviator's Wife packshot
A Parisian love story, in which the young girl is ravishing and the boy slightly confused.
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Director: Eric Rohmer

Writer: Eric Rohmer

Starring: Philippe Marlaud, Marie Riviere, Anne-Laure Meury, Matthieu Carriere, Fabrice Luchini

Year: 1981

Runtime: 97 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: France

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