“Every woman has her most vulnerable point. For some, it’s the nape of the neck, the waist, the hands. For Claire, in that position, in that light, it was her knee.”
While on vacation near the Swiss border, a soon-to-be-married diplomat (Jean-Claude Brialy) runs into an old writer friend (Aurora Cornu) who’s boarding with a divorced mom (Michele Montel) and her teenage daughter Laura (Beatrice Romand). Laura quickly develops a crush on Brialy, who flirts back innocently in return; meanwhile, when Laura’s blonde step-sister Claire (Laurence de Monaghan) arrives, Brialy develops an irrepressible urge to caress her knee, and is encouraged by Cornu to find a way to do so.
Claire’s Knee — the fifth installment in Eric Rohmer’s sextet of “Moral Tales” — is, like its companion films, focused on exploring a young male’s dalliance with temptation, and how he eventually resolves this temptation within himself. Here, Jerome (Brialy) is engaged to be married, but, egged on by an old friend (non-actress Cornu is perfectly cast), decides he might as well spend his last summer of “freedom” testing the boundaries of his desires. Indeed, Brialy’s friendship with Cornu has an air of Dangerous Liaisons to it, with romantic dares posited and enacted, then discussed with delight in the aftermath; in this case, however, Brialy’s actions are relatively benign: his flirtation with Romand is welcomed and returned, and his attempt to “touch Claire’s knee” — while clearly not done with reciprocation in mind — is similarly mild. These days — in an era of hyper moral-sensitivity about “statutory rape” — a film in which an “underage” (16-year-old) teenager seriously considers an affair with a man twice her age, and nobody blinks an eye, is remarkably refreshing, making Claire’s Knee a pleasant, thoughtful diversion.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Jean-Claude Brialy as Jerome
- Aurora Cornu as Jerome’s novelist friend
- Beatrice Romand as Laura
- Cornu trying to trick Jerome into accidentally touching Claire’s knee
- Nestor Almendros’ beautiful cinematography of the French countryside
Yes, as one of Rohmer’s most celebrated films. Listed as a film with Historical Importance and as a Personal Recommendation in the back of Peary’s book.