Eric Rohmer Collection: My Girlfriend's Boyfriend 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 My Girlfriend's Boyfriend, written for this site in 2003.
Les amis de mes amis sont mes amis (My friends' friends are my friends)
Eric Rohmer had two feature films released in 1987. The first was Four Adventures of Reinette and Mirabelle. That shares the final disc in this collection with Rohmer's 1993 film The Tree, The Mayor and the Mediatheque, so I will depart from chronology in these reviews. Also made in 1986 was another divertissement in Rohmer's career, the three-and-a-half minute short Bois ton café (Drink Your Coffee). This was Rohmer's first and only music video, featuring Rosette and Pascal Greggory in a little tale of how you need coffee to get up in the morning. This isn't on any of the discs in the Eric Rohmer Collection but you can view it here. No subtitles, but then no dialogue either, just the song performed by Rosette. (The short may not be work-safe due to brief nudity.)
After these diversions from his usual practice, Rohmer returned to a scripted film, and an ensemble piece, in the sixth and last of his Comedies and Proverbs. Full Moon in Paris had been set in the outer-Parisian new town of Marne-la-Vallée and with My Girlfriend's Boyfriend (L'ami de mon amie – released in the USA as Boyfriends and Girlfriends) we are in another, Cergy-Pontoise.
Blanche (Emmanuelle Chaulet) works for the council. One day she meets Léa (Sophie Renoir) and the two young women become friends. At the local swimming pool, they bump into Alexandre (François-Eric Gendron) and his girlfriend Adrienne (Anne-Laure Meury). Blanche is immediately attracted to Alexandre. However, one day during the holidays she bumps into Fabien (Eric Vieillard), who’s Léa’s boyfriend…
If Louise in Full Moon in Paris aspired to be away from her new town, to the extent of keeping a flat in the city, the twentysomething central characters of My Girlfriend's Boyfriend seem content to make lives from themselves in the suburbs. Filming in Cergy-Pontoise brought a few challenges. As Rohmer's practice was to use direct sound as much as possible, this meant that some exterior scenes, such as those at the watersports centre at Etangs de Neuville, had to be shot in short takes to avoid airplane noise, as they were under the flightpath of Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airport. Bernard Lutic returned as cinematographer for his third and final collaboration with Rohmer. Shooting in 35mm, the film makes use of the modernist architecture of the new town, and the colour scheme this time is dominated by blues and greens, two colours which come together in the final scene. Lutic died in 2000, aged fifty-six, in a plane crash while scouting film locations in Venezuela. His films for other directors include Richard Lester's The Return of the Musketeers, Bertrand Tavernier's Colonel Chabert, the French/New Zealand coproduction Leave All Fair and the French Vietnam War film Diên Biên Phú.
If Pauline at the Beach had a credited cast of six, My Boyfriend's Girlfriend has just five. It was the screen debut for Emmanuelle Chaulet. Rohmer had cast her two years earlier but had delayed making the film, in part due to waiting for building works in certain locations to be completed. Only six years separate this film from The Aviator's Wife, but Anne-Laure Meury seems much older than she did then, though that's a function of hair, makeup and body language, and she's playing a spikier character this time. Sophie Renoir (daughter of the cinematographer Claude Renoir, making her the great-niece of a director Rohmer hugely admired, Jean Renoir) had had a role in A Good Marriage, but here becomes a co-lead. Neither of the two men had worked for Rohmer before, though Eric Vieillard can be seen in Maurice Pialat's A nos amours. François-Eric Gendron was the oldest of the ensemble (thirty-two when the film was made) and had had a screen career going back ten years at this point. All of the cast are first-rate, and Rohmer's script has a clockwork precision to it. By this point in his career, Rohmer made it look so effortless.
My Girlfriend's Boyfriend was a commercial success in France and went on to releases in the UK and USA as his films mostly had done before. It gained two César nominations, one for Rohmer's screenplay and one for Sophie Renoir as Most Promising Actress.
Arrow Academy have released My Girlfriend's Boyfriend on disc as part of their Eric Rohmer Collection box set. The film carried a PG certificate on its British cinema release in June 1988 (which is when I saw it for the first time) and retains that certificate for home viewing.
Arrow's Blu-ray, like their earlier DVD, is in a ratio of 1.37:1. Again, the film could certainly be shown at 1.66:1 without looking too cropped – and that was the ratio I saw it in at a London cinema. So there's again some question as to which is correct, and this case neither Rohmer nor Lutic are still with us to confirm one way or another. As for the transfer itself, certainly no complaints. Given the summer setting and the strong outdoor light, the colours are strong and vibrant, with the blues and pale greens (and a red top worn by Blanche) looking true. Given its 35mm origins, this film is certainly less grainy than others in the box set, but the grain seems natural and filmlike.
The soundtrack is mono: Rohmer wouldn't make a film in Dolby Stereo until Autumn Tale eleven years later, and that film is pretty much monophonic with the appropriate noise reduction. The soundtrack in My Girlfriend's Boyfriend is clear and well balanced. English subtitles are optional.
The first extra on the disc is an on-set report from French television in 1986 (3:20). The presenter seems to take knowledge of Rohmer and his films for granted, remarking how he has gone back to a new town setting three Comedies and Proverbs after the previous location. Along with extracts from the film (and the trailer) the five cast-members – but not Rohmer, despite what the disc menu on the checkdisc says - are interviewed in various locations, such as a café, or in her character's office in the case of Emmanuelle Chaulet. It's a short item, but we do hear that, even in a scripted film like this, there is an element of improvisation needed when filming in public places, especially when passers-by get into shot. The trailer (2:00) is also on the disc.
The essay in the book with this box set is by Tara Judah. She begins by defending the Comedies and Proverbs as slighter works in Rohmer's filmography, as critics such as Roger Ebert have claimed – not so much in their methods but their concerns. However, Judah says, the six films do have an engagement with social and spatial anxieties in then-contemporary France, not least in the settings around his characters, in this case the modernist architecture of Cergy-Pontoise. Five new towns had been built in the 1970s around Paris, and Rohmer had made a television documentary about Cergy for television (Enfance d'une ville, 1975). He was clearly fascinated by these places' impact on what would be called in the UK and the USA Generation X, in France Génération Mitterand.