Eric Rohmer Collection: Full Moon in Paris Review
The Eric Rohmer Collection is a box set of ten films on nine Blu-ray discs, released in a limited edition of 2000 by Arrow Academy. These reviews are a disc at a time, the films being reviewed in chronological order, except for those on the final disc. To read the other reviews, please click on the “Eric Rohmer Collection” tag below.
Part of the following is revised and updated from my DVD review of Full Moon in Paris, written for this site in 2010, following Rohmer's death.
Qui a deux femmes perd son âme, Qui a deux maisons perd sa raison. (He who has two women loses his soul. He who has two houses loses his mind.)
We're in Marne-la-Vallée, a new town outside Paris - which became, eight years after this film was made, home to EuroDisney. Louise (Pascale Ogier), an interior designer, lives with her architect boyfriend Rémi (Tchéky Karyo). Their relationship is strong except for one thing – Louise loves to go out at night while Rémi very much prefers to stay in. So not to cause a disturbance, Louise rents a small flat in Paris. With her friend Octave (Fabrice Luchini) she goes to a round of parties. But soon temptation is placed in her way...
Full Moon in Paris (not a literal translation of the French title, Les nuits de la pleine lune) was the fourth of Rohmer's Comedies and Proverbs and one of the best. If The Aviator's Wife and Pauline at the Beach were more ensemble pieces, Full Moon in Paris follows A Good Marriage by putting its young woman protagonist centre stage. Like her predecessors and successors, Louise certainly makes mistakes, generally guided by love, to a point which can become infuriating, but is viewed by Rohmer with a high degree of objective sympathy. Louise becomes a very engaging figure, despite her flaws, though this story has a darker tone than the rest of the series.
Much of that is due to Pascale Ogier's performance. In the next film in the series, The Green Ray, the film was improvised, to the extent that its lead actress, Marie Rivière, received a writing credit. Pascale Ogier had a different input into her film: as she was playing an interior designer, Rohmer let her design Louise's Parisian flat, and her “half” of Louise and Rémi's Marne home, and she receives a screen credit for this. Ogier, daughter of the distinguished actress Bulle Ogier (born 1939, and still with us at time of writing), had previously worked for Rohmer with a small role in Perceval and the title role in the Rohmer's stage production and subsequent 1980 TV film Catherine de Heilbronn. She also co-wrote and co-starred alongside her mother in Jacques Rivette's Le pont du Nord (1981). She won the Best Actress Award at the Venice Film Festival for Full Moon in Paris and was nominated for a César, losing to Sabine Azéma in Bertrand Tavernier's Sunday in the Country.
Tchéky Karyo, a bigger name than normal for a Rohmer non-regular, plays an unusually subdued role, using his athletic physique to convey Rémi's frustration, while Fabrice Luchini shows a more sensual side than usual in his roles for Rohmer. The film was released when Rohmer was sixty-four, but it's now a time capsule of a particular mid-80s style and music. Rohmer was an ascetic person, abstemious to a fault, reportedly only eating one meal a day, and certainly not a partygoer, so he staged one for the film and shot the result.
However, for most of us except those who saw Full Moon in Paris at its Venice premiere, there's a shadow cast over the film when watching it which is not of its own making. A month and a half after her Venice win, on 25 October 1984, Pascale Ogier died of a heart attack. It was the day before her twenty-sixth birthday. Untimely death is always tragic, even more so when talent is obvious and hence unfulfilled. You have to wonder what Pascale Ogier would have gone on to do: this film is both a showcase for her and a memorial. Jim Jarmusch dedicated his 1986 film Down by Law to her.
Full Moon in Paris is released on Blu-ray as part of Arrow Academy's Eric Rohmer Collection. Released in UK cinemas with a 15 certificate, it has the same rating for home viewing.
The film was Rohmer's only collaboration with the Swiss cinematographer Renato Berta, who had made his name in the 1970s with his work for his compatriot, director Alain Tanner. The film was shot in 35mm. Arrow's Blu-ray transfer is in a ratio of 1.37:1, as was their previous DVD from 2004. As with others of Rohmer's films, the intended aspect ratio is open to question, and this film could be shown in 1.66:1 – but no wider – without looking unduly cropped. In fact, I saw it that way in a cinema in 1985. Given the wintry setting, Full Moon in Paris has a more muted colour palette than other films in the series: blacks, whites and greys, with the odd splash of brighter colour, such as Louise's red scarf. But the colours seem true, with solid blacks and good shadow detail, and grain is filmlike.
The soundtrack is the original mono, and there are no issues with it. English subtitles are optionally available.
The extras begin with “Eric Rohmer parle ses films” (7:03). This featurette is made up from extracts from an interview with Claude-Jean Philippe, illustrated with clips from the film itself, or others, when appropriate, arranged in short thematic sections. To begin with, Rohmer discusses the first party scene, which is an important turning point in the film's plot. He then discusses his approach to the look of the film and his approach to set design, and Pascale Ogier's input to the latter. He finishes by talking about the Mondrian print that is prominently on show in Rémi and Louise's apartment. Rohmer was, he says, of the generation which moved away from Mondrian, but a younger generation had taken him up again.
Also on the disc is an interview with Rohmer, audio-only, which plays as a second audio track to the feature. This interview, recorded after the release of The Lady and the Duke isn't as weighty as it might seem from the running time. The interviewer (unidentified) speaks in English, Rohmer in French, with an interpreter on hand. Rohmer takes us through his entire career up to that point, beginning with his work as a critic while being employed as a literature teacher. He did not seem to be much of a filmgoer, with the first one he remembers seeing being the silent Ben Hur, and preferring the theatre. Now, in his eighties, he rarely watches new films, feeling himself out of step with modern cinema. He also discusses his working methods, including his use of improvisation in The Green Ray. He asserts that he does embrace modern technology (the use of cordless microphones in recording live soundtracks, for example) and discusses his use of digital video in his then-newest film. This runs 55:52, after which the film audio takes over. There are no subtitles for this interview, no doubt due to the interpreter's presence.
Next up is an episode of the French television programme Effraction, dedicated to Tchéky Karyo, made in 1986. Nowadays, Karyo (of Turkish and Greek parentage and fluent in both of those languages as well as in French and English) is best known for Western audiences for his leading role in both series of The Missing for the BBC. After some tributes to him, from fellow actor François Cluzet, Andrzej Żuławski (who directed him in 1984 in L'amour braque) and others, we switch to a studio interview, during which Karyo sits there with his shirt off, occasionally smoking, having his body makeup applied for a stage role as Othello he was due to play later that same evening. We see a clip of this stage production. The interview turns into something of a chat show, as they are joined by the play's director Hans-Peter Cloos, Théo Hakola (leader of a band called Passion Fodder, one of whose videos we see), photographer and film director William Klein, and Monique Kouper, who appears to be an old friend of Karyo's We also see Karyo and his four male co-stars in his then-recent film Etats d'âme singing. Thirty-six minutes in, we get to Full Moon in Paris, and Karyo reveals that he surprised Rohmer by turning up on set with a much more closely-cropped hair than he usually wore, and without any curls in it.
In addition, there is a brief interview with Pascale Ogier (2:52) just after her Venice prize, clearly delighted. This item is inevitably poignant in hindsight as we watch this knowing that she would not have long to live. Finally, there is the theatrical trailer (1:36) for Full Moon in Paris.
Arrow's book contains an essay by David Jenkins on Full Moon in Paris. This takes the form of a letter to Pascale Ogier, care of the Père Lachaise Cemetery. Jenkins, who was all of three years old when Ogier died, did visit her grave. Addressing her, he talks about her earlier films, though acknowledging that Full Moon in Paris is her signature work, the one where most of her resides, with much emphasis on her body language and her big eyes in particular.