Full Moon Over Paris

January 6, 2020

fullmoonparisTwo decades after the French New Wave sent the film world spinning, director Eric Rohmer continues to be one of the leading lights of the world cinema. His erudite films consist primarily of people having witty conversations, through which they discover things about themselves. Or just as likely, fail to discover things about themselves.

That approach explains a line in Night Moves when Gene Hackman sighs, “Yeah, I saw a Rohmer film once. It was kinda like watchin’ paint dry.” Ah, but there are many coats of paint in a Rohmer movie, and peeling off each one is part of the reward.

Full Moon in Paris is Rohmer’s latest entry in a series he calls “Comedies and Proverbs.” (His most recent movies – both lovely – were Le Beau Mariage and Pauline at the Beach.) The proverb that begins this movie is: “He who has two women loses his soul. He who has two houses loses his mind.”

This is a story about a woman (Pascale Ogier) who refuses to heed the advice of the proverb. She shares a suburban home with her lover (Tcheky Karyo), but he’s a stick-in-the-mud who doesn’t like to go out. She does, so she decides to keep a Paris apartment as well as the home. When in Paris, she hobnobs with her intellectual (and platonic) friend, a married man (Fabrice Luchini); they attend parties and happily dance the night away.

By all rights, she feels – without a hint of duplicity or ill will – that she should be able to have things both ways. But her Paris evenings turn out to be a little lonelier than she anticipated, and her suburban lover may not be as sure a thing as she thought.

Out of this slim concept, Rohmer spins his conversations. His people rarely say what they mean, and they rarely do what they say, but they all mean well – and they all head, however haltingly, toward some gently moral conclusion.

It’s a wry, amusing movie, even though Rohmer disdains flashiness and bellylaughs (unlike many lesser French comedies). The low-key nature of his comedy of observation probably explains the fact that Full Moon Over Paris has been booked for just a week ‘s run at the Harvard Exit, rather than an open-ended engagement.

There is an element to this Rohmer production that adds an eerie melancholy. It surrounds Pascale Ogier, the 24-year-old daughter of veteran French actress Bulle Ogier. She’s a typically offbeat-looking Rohmer heroine, and she gives a wonderful performance in the first of what should have been many leading roles for her.

Sadly, she died shortly after the film’s initial release. She had been attending a party in Paris and went to sleep at a friend’s apartment – perhaps she was very like the character she plays – where she died of undetermined causes. Her promise as an actress fills the screen, and the knowledge of her tragic death lends the movie, as wise and delightful as it already is, an extra layer of moodiness. She was awarded the Venice Film Festival Best Actress award for this film a few weeks before her death.

First published in the Herald, 1985

IMDb says Pascal Ogier died of a drug overdose, the day before her 26th birthday. That poignancy aside, I remember feeling this was a minor Rohmer. But the movie sounds great in description, and I should watch it again, given my high regard for this (in recent years apparently disprized) filmmaker.