THE AVIATOR’S WIFE (Eric Rohmer, 1981)

Launching his “Comedies and Proverbs” series, writer-director Eric Rohmer’s La femme de l’aviateur is another of his gems. An exquisite light comedy disclosing a depth of romantic anxiety, and hurt feelings alternately hidden and flashing, it revolves around a triangle—a woman, her former lover, her current sometime lover—that becomes another triangle, obliquely, when a girl skipping school joins jealous François in shadowing Anne’s former lover, Christian, who is accompanied by another woman, throughout Paris, perhaps with the aim in mind of exposing him as a two-timer to Anne, whom the man, an airplane pilot, has already dumped. Appearances turn out to be deceptive, and François, who is twenty, is too self-involved to notice Anne’s torment; Anne is 25, while Lucie, 15, might be a more suitable match for François. If only he would open his eyes and lighten up! When he does, another possible misinterpretation of appearances sinks his heart again.
     François and Lucie’s “detective work” in the park, where Lucie tries finagling from tourists photographic proof of Christian and his blonde companion’s existence—a delicious passage fusing elements of Antonioni’s Blowup (1966) and Truffaut’s Stolen Kisses (1968). Lucie, who seems more sophisticated than university student François, is clearly interested in him romantically; her delightful high spirits compensate for his mopey disposition. François amuses rather than exhausts her, which is the opposite of the case with Anne, who wants only to rest, enjoy a meaningless date that night, take off to visit her mother over the weekend, during which time her apartment plumbing will be fixed—at François’s arrangement, as hilarious proof of his devotion. During their very long scene together around Anne’s bed, however, we see what François won’t consider: that the two of them do not mesh into a couple.

B(U)Y THE BOOK

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