Pauline at the Beach (1983)

Rohmer plays an elaborate, frolicky game of relationship misunderstandings and coverups in his third ‘Comedies & Proverbs’ series, as most of the characters try to make sense—with sheer incompetence—what the meaning of love is.   

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Review #2,045

Dir. Eric Rohmer
1983 | France | Comedy/Drama/Romance | 91 mins | 1.37:1 | French & Spanish
Not rated – likely to be M18 for sexual scenes and nudity

Cast: Amanda Langlet, Arielle Dombasle, Pascal Greggory
Plot: Marion is about to divorce from her husband and takes her 15-year-old niece Pauline on a vacation to Normandy. There, the two navigate the men around them
Awards: Won Silver Bear – Best Director, FIPRESCI Prize & OCIC Award – Honourable Mention (Berlinale)
Source: Les Films du Losange

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate – Love
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Pace: Normal
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse

Viewed: MUBI
Spoilers: No

Arguably the best of Eric Rohmer’s ‘Comedies & Proverbs’ so far, Pauline at the Beach is the third instalment of the series, winning Best Director at the Berlinale.  Here he plays a frolicky game of relationship misunderstandings and coverups that grows more complex and intricate as time passes. 

At the centre of it all—or perhaps more accurately, observing from the side, is Pauline (Amanda Langlet), the titular 15-year-old girl who tags along with Marion (Arielle Dombasle), her young aunt who is about to get divorced. 

They visit an empty family country house near a beach that they would frequent during the film.  Marion, who’s very anal about matters of the heart, falls in love with an older man but also encounters an ex-lover in the process. 

While the film does not always focus on the point-of-view of Pauline, she is the glue that holds everyone together.  Despite her young age, she seems to be the most rational figure, quite literally the wisest of all in a room full of incompetent adults who find themselves manipulated, tricked, sidelined or betrayed. 

“Love burns. I want to burn up with love.”

Pauline, of course, suffers emotionally from the collateral damage, but Rohmer’s film finds a balance between sensitivity and farce amid the fights and lovemaking. 

One might call Pauline at the Beach a coming-of-age film, but a coming-of-age for whom—Pauline? 

Immersed in the social experience of casual rendezvous and genuine confessions of love, she absorbs the various worldviews and observes the behaviours of those around her, but rarely offers any judgment unless asked. 

Her childlike innocence may be reaching its end, but her conception and experience of love remain simple and unadulterated, and one suspects, for as long as she desires it to be.        

Grade: A-


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