Full Moon in Paris (Les nuits de la pleine lune) Review
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 (Les nuits de la pleine lune) was the fourth of Rohmer's Comedies and Proverbs and one of the best. The Aviator's Wife and Pauline at the Beach were more like ensemble pieces. This new film returned to the second, A Good Marriage, by being centred on a single figure, a young woman in her twenties. 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.
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 distinguised actress Bulle Ogier, had previously worked for Rohmer with a small role in Perceval and the title role in the 1980 TV film Catherine de Heilbronn (unavailable on an English-friendly DVD as of this writing). 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.
However, except for 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. Shortly 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 by Arrow on a dual-layered disc encoded for all regions. It is available either singly or as part of Arrow's eight-film Eric Rohmer Collection.
Full Moon in Paris 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. I saw this film in a cinema in 1985, shown at a ratio of 1.66:1. This DVD is full-frame 4:3. Unlike the films that Nestor Almendros shot for Rohmer (namely his book A Man with a Camera), I don't have a source for which ratio the film is intended to be shown in. Given Rohmer's liking for Academy Ratio (all but one of the Almendros films are shot that way), full-frame may well be accurate, but as with others of his films, it may be intentional that they do not lose anything significanct if cropped to 1.66:1. That aside, the transfer is faithful to Rohmer and Berta's muted colour scheme – many blacks, whites and greys with splashes of brighter colour, such as Louise's red scarf – though the source shows some minor damage, such as spots and speckles, notably during the opening shot. Given that this transfer is six years old as I write this, it's not up to modern-day transfers from HD masters: it's distinctly soft, though grain is filmlike.
The soundtrack is mono, as intended, and is well balanced. English subtitles are optional.
The extras begin with the theatrical trailer (1:33), shown in 4:3. Like its equivalents on Arrow's other Rohmer DVDs, it's in French but without English subtitles.
Next up is another “Eric Rohmer Talks About His Films” (6:46) featurette. These comprise extracts from an interview with Claude-Jean Philippe, illustrated with extracts from the film (or others, when appropriate), and arranged in short thematic sections. Firstly, Rohmer discusses the first party scene, which is an important turning point in the film's plot. Rohmer himself was not a partygoer, so he organised one himself and filmed the results. 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. Optional English subtitles are available for this extra.
The final item on the disc is an interview with Rohmer (55:50), again audio-only, illustrated with stills from Full Moon in Paris. 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 film 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, referred to above. He also says 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. There are no subtitles available for this item, no doubt because of the interpreter's presence, though which is not good news for anyone who is hard-of-hearing or unfluent in English or French.