Les Nuits de la pleine lune
Eng. Title: Full Moon in Paris
Starring: Pascale Ogier, Fabrice Lucini, Tchéky Karyo
Directed by: Éric Rohmer
Throughout Éric Rohmer’s Les nuits de la pleine lune, you get the feeling that there will eventually be a twist coming or something that will change the pace of the film. Yet this film that champions dialogue only delivers something compelling towards the near end. However, while the film does feel like it’s moving at a glacial pace at times is intriguing and inciteful. Despite this, it shouldn’t be forgiven for trying to be too arthouse.
Louise (Ogier) is a young Parisian woman who has recently moved in with her boyfriend Rémi (Karyo) in his apartment in the suburbs. While Rémi prefers to stay in and go to bed early, Louise still wants to embrace the nightlife and not have to worry about waking up early the next morning. She continues to live in her apartment in Paris on Friday nights so she can stay up late partying. This arrangement puts a strain on their relationship, but eventually Rémi begins to support it.
At first, Louise is happy to have a place on her own as she has been living with a boyfriend all her life; she moves in with someone else as another relationship is ending. However, as time goes by, Louise reflects on her relationship with Rémi and while she deeply loves him, she feels like she’s losing herself. She begins to question Rémi’s faithfulness and whether she herself can remain faithful.
The sole focus of the film is on Louise and her conversations with Rémi and Octave (a married friend of Louise who is desperately trying to be more than just friends—played by Luicini). While movies that are mostly about dialogue and conversations can be great, they need to go somewhere. The payoff is at the end, but for the first 90 minutes, the conversations are needlessly long and sometimes go in circles.
Then there’s the matter of the final act, which comes out of nowhere. For most of the film, Louise is determined to be faithful; until she’s suddenly not. While she does explain her actions in a particularly interesting scene near the end of the film, this change in attitude feels unnatural. One could argue that the character of Louise, which Ogier plays wonderfully, is constantly conflicted and primed to do something unexpected. Ogier portrays Louise with such intricate subtlety that it seems plausible that Louise could wake up one day and just want to throw her life away.
Still, there feels to be a jump in the character arc that seems disjointed. Considering that the movie is about (long) conversations between its characters, you would think that more time could have been devoted Louise’s change in heart. It sometimes feels like Rohmer was more concerned with trying to produce eternal soundbites that will live in every retrospective on French cinema rather than fully develop the story itself.
That seems like heavy criticism but considering that this is a good movie with great acting and an interesting take on the dynamics of relationships, this misstep is glaring. It takes too long to get to its point, which is within the last 10 minutes of the movie. This could have been a great film that could have denied a genre. Instead, it simply plays to those who value the subtleties of mise-en-scene and iconic black-and-white stills over strong storytelling and meaning. This film stands on its performances—notably Ogier’s–and insight on relationships, but it could have been more complete.
Don’t get me wrong, Les nuits de la pleine lune is a good film that most will enjoy, but there will be some who will feel the payoff will take too long and lose interest well before the final scene. Rohmer tried too hard to make an iconic movie that cinephiles would talk about for ages. Instead, he delivered an almost classic that left potential behind.