When you reduce Eric Rohmer’s Claire’s Knee (1970) to its most basic level—a diplomat in his mid-30s becomes obsessed with the idea of touching a teenage girl’s knee—it sounds both a little creepy and certainly not substantial enough to support 105 minutes of movie. The thing is, one can say something like that about every Rohmer film I’ve ever encountered. Plus, that’s a simplification of the story, which is more about the diplomat in question, Jerome (Jean-Claude Brialy), claiming to be acting out scenarios for the benefit of his writer friend, Aurora (Aurora Cornu). The trick is that Jerome claims so many things—and it’s even money that most of them (possibly even including his fiancee in Geneva) only serve to fool Jerome and satisfy his largely unjustifiable ego. Reduced to that level, it sounds like a movie about Jerome would be a pretty unpleasant experience, but the resulting film is as pleasant as the sunlit summer days in which it takes place—laced with sly humor and some keen insights into the human condition, especially where Jerome is concerned. It’s not, I think, a great movie (though cineastes of the early ‘70s sure took it as one), but it is an agreeable one with more on its mind than it at first seems.
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