Pauline at the Beach (1983)

“Only a wagging tongue bites itself.”

PATB Poster

Synopsis:
While spending the summer at the beach in Normandy, a beautiful young divorcee (Arielle Dombasle) and her 14-year-old cousin Pauline (Amanda Langlet) become involved in complex romantic entanglements.

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Review:
After completing his cycle of “Six Moral Tales” (which ended with 1972’s Chloe in the Afternoon), French New Wave director Eric Rohmer embarked on a new cinematic series entitled “Comedies and Proverbs”; Pauline at the Beach is the third of these six films. A surprisingly breezy sex farce with an undercurrent of philosophical contemplation, Pauline remains one of Rohmer’s most enjoyable and accessible outings — indeed, it was enormously successful upon its release in America (thanks in part, no doubt, to a poster depicting sexy Arielle Dombasle in a close-cut bathing suit). As usual in Rohmer’s low-budget films, the narrative consists primarily of long shots with characters conversing, and not many “action” scenes; the emphasis instead is on exploring the diverse ways in which humans approach sex and love, and how this inevitably leads to misunderstandings and hurt feelings. The final exchange in the movie — between Pauline (wonderfully played by the worldly-wise Amanda Langlet) and Marion (Dombasle) — reveals that Marion will likely continue to delude herself in affairs of the heart, while Pauline has learned some valuable lessons from the adults around her on how not to approach romance…

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Amanda Langlet as Pauline
    PATB Pauline
  • Arielle Dombasle as Pauline’s sexy but clueless cousin, Marion
    PATB Marion
  • Feodor Atkine as womanizing Henry
    PATB Henry
  • An effective look at females of different ages struggling to understand love and sex
    PATB Cousins
  • Pauline reacting to Henry’s “innocent” caresses
    PATB Reaction

Must See?
Yes. This surprisingly light-hearted romantic comedy is one of Rohmer’s most enjoyable movies, and should be seen by all film fanatics.

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One Response to “Pauline at the Beach (1983)”

  1. Not a must.

    I’ve always felt that a little of writer/director Rohmer goes a long way and that, even for die-hard ffs, he’s an acquired taste. As well, it seems to me that his earlier films are generally stronger and a few perhaps are musts.

    Not ‘PATB’.

    I do recall that this film was rather popular on release, and it does seem to have been made with a wider audience in mind. Or perhaps Rohmer’s only intent was to make his version of a frothy farce. If so, it’s somewhat flat.

    It’s difficult for me to find anyone in this mix to empathize with, really. The film plods along from the start and sinks into a semi-intellectual he said/she said re: who’s boffing whom.

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