Pauline at the Beach (Pauline à la plage) Review
“Qui trop parole, il se mesfait” [translated in the subtitles as: “A wagging tongue bites itself”] (Chrétien de Troyes)
It's the end of summer. Following a recent divorce, Marion (Arielle Dombasle) decides to spend some time at the family beach house in Normandy. She takes her young cousing Pauline (Amanda Langlet) with her. On the beach, they meet Pierre (Pascal Greggory), Marion's ex-lover, who introduces them to Henri (Féodor Atkine). Marion becomes attracted to Henri, even though Pierre is still in love with her. And meanwhile, Pauline meets Sylvain (Simon de la Brosse).
Pauline at the Beach (Pauline à la plage) was the third of Rohmer's Comedies and Proverbs. Rohmer was frequently fond of “holiday” films, liking to observe his characters when they are away from the ties of home and work and their normal life. Two of the Moral Tales fit this pattern, as do two of the Comedies and Proverbs and one of the Four Seasons (though don't forget the prologue of A Winter's Tale).
Rohmer wrote the script to fit within the parameters of a low budget: a credited cast of six and a crew of five, with three main locations, two villas and a beach. Most of the Comedies and Proverbs centre on one young woman. Like The Aviator's Wife before it, Pauline at the Beach, despite its title, is more of an ensemble piece than others in the series. However, it is largely through Pauline's eyes that we see much of the action and judge it, though the viewer is ahead of her in finding out what is really going on. Rohmer has constructed a witty character piece, more tightly plotted than it might appear. And he makes it look so effortless.
After his Oscar for Days of Heaven, Nestor Almendros found himself increasingly in demand in Hollywood. He had shot all of Rohmer's features from La collectionneuse in 1966 to Perceval in 1978. Bernard Lutic has shot the first two Comedies and Proverbs, but Almendros returned with Pauline, to make his final collaboration with Rohmer, and his work is a highlight of the film.
Arrow's DVD of Pauline at the Beach is available both singly and as part of the eight-film Eric Rohmer Collection boxset. The disc is a DVD-5 encoded for all regions.
Unlike the other DVDs in the boxset, and indeed the other films that Almendros shot for Rohmer, Pauline at the Beach has an intended ratio of 1.66:1 and receives an anamorphic transfer in that ratio. The transfer is a little grainy, and there are some colour-shifting artefacts in the beach scenes. It's an adequate picture, but you wonder how this would look from a HD master.
The soundtrack is mono, and there is nothing to complain about. English subtitles are optional.
The extras begin with the theatrical trailer (1:42), which is non-anamorphic, cropped to 1.85:1 and devoid of English subtitles
Next up is an interview (12:55), or rather an extract from one, conducted with Jean Douchet in 1993 for the French TV programme Cinéma de notre temps. Given that most of the interview featurettes on Arrow's DVDs feature just Rohmer's voice, it's good that this time we see his face as well. He produces a notebook with his original outline for Pauline, which dates back to the 1950s. He also discusses the casting of Amanda Langlet, whose potential he first saw in a still photograph. The interview is cropped to 1.78:1 (non-anamorphic) with extracts from the film in full-frame 4:3.
The second interview extract (6:32) was conducted by Claude-Jean Philippe and Caroline Champetier for French radio in 1983. This item is illustrated solely by a picture of a Sony radio-cassette. Rohmer discusses his working methods: many of his films are based on ideas he has had for many years, the development of them is an ongoing process. The making of The Aviator's Wife allowed him to develop the themes of A Good Marriage and Pauline. The making of those films has given him material for future projects. He also refers to a long hesitation about where to go after completing the Moral Tales – during which he made two films based on other works, The Marquise of O... and Perceval le Gallois - before settling on comedy for his new series. Intriguingly, Rohmer reveals that he might have tried to make entirely different kinds of films, such as political stories or thrillers.