My Night at Maud's

My Night at Maud's

My Night at Maud's is a 1969 French drama directed by Eric Rohmer, the third in a series called Six Moral Tales. It details the conversations between a devout Catholic and an atheist, and how their faith or lack thereof colors all of their opinions about philosophy, relationships, and, strangely enough, mathematics.

My Night at Maud's revolves around this really sort of bland, fervently Catholic man. He mostly keeps to himself because he's very boring (except when he's basically stalking this pretty blonde from church that he's convinced himself he's in love with despite the fact that they've never spoken), but fate intervenes when he runs into an old friend who invites him over to Maud's for dinner.

Maud is awesome. She's interesting and sexy and says what she means and is overall way too good for this guy. But when a freak snowstorm forces him to spend the night with Maud, they find themselves connecting both on an intellectual and sexual level.

Despite the fact that they're clearly into each other, things are never going to work out between them. Jean-Louis is insistent that he needs to marry a Catholic woman (Maud is culturally atheist), and Maud is probably still a little too broken from her recent divorce to commit to a serious relationship. Plus there's still the little matter of the Catholic schoolgirl that he's sort of pursuing simultaneously? I don't know, it's weird.

In fact, while he's leaving Maud's house one day, he runs into the girl and goes straight back to her's. And again, thanks to the snow, he gets stuck there for the night. Unpredictable weather patterns are like the ultimate wing man in this movie. Also, for a man who claims to be deeply religious, dude gets around.

My Night at Maud's is probably one of the most honest films that I've ever seen. It's shot with long scenes of uninterrupted conversation, the characters moving organically around the camera. It feels like real (albeit unusually well-spoken) people talking about life, relationships, and everything else that happens to come up over the course of a casually meandering conversation.

I also find the implications of religion in this film very interesting. When all is said and done, Jean-Louis ends up staying with his bland Catholic lady. The final scene takes place some years in the future, when they take their young son to the beach. By some random crazy happenstance, they run into Maud.

Now they don't come right out and say this, but it's pretty clear that Maud recognizes her as the woman who was having an affair with her husband. Is the film trying to say that sometimes people who claim to have high moral standards can end up being hypocrites with the most to hide? Well, that's definitely a theme. And then there's Maud, who may not be perfect, but is honest with herself and lives by her own moral code -- of course she is the one who ends up alone.

For a film that is very dialogue heavy (and one where the dialogue is in a language that I don't speak), it feels lively and well-paced. Although it skews to a more intellectual crowd, it's definitely worth a watch.

My Night At Maud's
Starring Jean-Louis Trintignant, Françoise Fabian, Marie-Christine Barrault, Antoine Vitez, Léonide Kogan
Eric Rohmer's Six Moral Tales (The Criterion Collection)
French Cinema: From Its Beginnings to the Present
By Rémi Fournier Lanzoni
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