My Night at Maud’s / Ma Nuit Chez Maud (1969)

My Night at Maud’s / Ma Nuit Chez Maud (1969)

“I don’t like people with no problems.”

Synopsis:
A Catholic (Jean-Louis Trintignant) secretly infatuated with a blonde (Marie-Christine Barrault) he sees at church bumps into an old schoolmate (Antoine Vitez) and ends up spending the evening with him and a divorced doctor named Maud (Fran├žoise Fabian).

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Bourgeois Society
  • Eric Rohmer Films
  • French Films
  • Religious Faith

Response to Peary’s Review:
In his review of this “third of Eric Rohmer’s six ‘Moral Tales'” — though “the first to get wide-spread circulation in America” — Peary points out the theme of “chance and probability” that runs through the entire screenplay, beginning with Trintignant running “into a Marxist friend… whom he hasn’t seen in 14 years… at a restaurant neither has been to before”:

… and eventually turning to “Trintignant, who is the type of guy who is always punctual, keeps appointments, and doesn’t sway from an ordered life, impulsively approach[ing] (on the street) a beautiful blonde… he’d seen at mass,” with further character-driven coincidences ensuing.

As Peary notes, “the humor is more subtle than in other Rohmer films — in fact, one could sit through the whole film without realizing he’s been funny on occasion” given that “the characters are always so serious” (though the humor “comes from seeing such loquacious intellectuals turning out to be as silly and awkward as everyone else when it comes to sex”).

I have a different take: while re-watching this film, I never thought I was viewing a romantic (or even an intellectual) comedy, and didn’t find the characters’ sexual choices to be “silly”. Peary further asserts that the moment when “Fabian’s daughter (Marie Becker) climbs out of bed just to see the lights on the Christmas tree” is “a simple, sweet, and honest gesture that makes us see how trivial the adult discourse is”:

… but I also disagree with this latter point; the “adult discourse” (involving “ultra-sophisticated… conversations about Pascal, probability and religion”) may be occasionally abstruse, but is far from trivial (or irrelevant). While this film is most certainly not for all tastes, I think it’s one-time must-see viewing for all film fanatics, especially those interested in French cinema.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Nestor Almendros’s cinematography

Must See?
Yes, as an exemplar of Rohmer’s unique style.

Categories

  • Foreign Gem

(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)

Links:

One thought on “My Night at Maud’s / Ma Nuit Chez Maud (1969)

  1. First viewing (10/13/21) – not must-see; only for Rohmer fans.

    The three leads (Trintignant, Fabian and Barrault) are certainly attractive in their roles and, for the most part, lend a natural quality. But (as is typical with Rohmer) this is largely a talky, intellectual / existential film.

    Personally, I don’t go in for approaching love from a philosophical POV and there is quite a lot of talk about that here. Mon Dieu, how inert! I was mostly bored but then, personally, I’m almost-always bored by Rohmer’s work; he does little for me (though I recall liking ‘Claire’s Knee’; a rare exception).

Leave a Reply