My Night at Maud's
|My Night at Maud's|
Criterion DVD cover
|Directed by||Éric Rohmer|
|Produced by||Pierre Cottrell
|Written by||Éric Rohmer|
|Edited by||Cécile Decugis|
|Distributed by||Compagnie Française de Distribution Cinématographique|
Over the Christmas break in a French city, the film shows chance meetings and conversations between four single people, each knowing one of the other three. One man and one woman are Catholics, while the other man and woman are atheists. The discussions and actions of the four continually refer to the thoughts of Blaise Pascal on mathematics, on ethics and on human existence. They also talk about a topic the bachelor Pascal did not cover – love between men and women.
Jean-Louis, a solitary and serious engineer, has taken a job in Clermont-Ferrand where he knows nobody. Attending a Catholic church, he sees a pretty young blonde woman and without knowing anything about her is convinced that she will become his wife. In the street he sees Vidal, an old Marxist friend now a university lecturer, who invites him to a concert the next evening. After the event, Vidal tells Jean-Louis he is going to see a friend and persuades him to come as well.
They arrive at the flat of Maud, a very attractive and seductive brunette who works as a paediatrician and is recently divorced. The three talk and drink, until Maud suggests that falling snow has made the drive to Jean-Louis' mountain village unsafe and he should stay. Vidal, who had hoped to stay, leaves. After further drink and talk, Maud reveals that there is only the one bed, which she gets into naked, and suggests that Jean-Louis joins her. He eventually does, keeping his clothes on, but resists her advances. Initially hurt, she gets over the rejection and in the morning invites him to join her later for a walk in the snow.
Driving home, he sees the blonde girl from the church and, much encouraged in his dealings with women by his night with Maud, boldly introduces himself. Her name is Françoise and she agrees to see him later. On the walk with Maud he is much more forward with her, to the point where she has to restrain him. Meeting up with Françoise, he learns that she is a biology postgraduate and he goes back with her to her student room, where she refuses to kiss and puts herself to bed alone in another room. Later, she admits that the cloud between them is because she has been having an affair with a married man.
Five years on, now married and on a beach with their child, the two meet Maud, who still looks stunning. She says she has remarried, but it is not a success. Afterwards, Jean-Louis confesses to Françoise that he came from Maud's bed on the morning he first met her. Then he realizes that his wife's lover was Maud's husband. As they are now both happy together, they decide not to bring up the subject again. Instead, they go for a swim with their child.
- Jean-Louis Trintignant as Jean-Louis
- Françoise Fabian as Maud
- Marie-Christine Barrault as Françoise
- Antoine Vitez as Vidal
- Leonid Kogan as himself
- Guy Léger as Preacher
- Anne Dubot as Blonde Friend
- Marie Becker as Marie, Maud's Daughter (uncredited)
- Marie-Claude Rauzier as Student (uncredited)
Production and themes
My Night at Maud's was made with funds raised by François Truffaut, who liked the script, and was initially intended to be the third "Moral Tale". However, because the film takes place on Christmas Eve, Rohmer wanted to shoot the film on and around that day. Actor Jean-Louis Trintignant was not available; thus, filming was delayed for an entire year.
One of the main themes concerns Pascal's Wager, which Jean-Louis and Maud discuss. The conversations are directly inspired by the 1965 television show The Talk on Pascal, which was made by Rohmer and included a similar debate between Brice Parain and Dominican Father Dominique Dubarle. The themes of chance and Pascal would be examined by Rohmer in his 1992 film A Tale of Winter.
When the film was released in France in 1969, it received mixed reviews. Guy Teisseire of L'Aurore wrote that "The best compliment we can pay Éric Rohmer is to have done with My Night at Maud's a talking film. I mean the opposite of a talkative film where the text would be used to fill the gaps: that is to say, a work in which eloquent silences are felt as lack of understanding about both is constant." Claude Garson of L'Aurore said that "We do not underestimate the ambition of such a work, but we say right away that film, with its own laws, does not lend itself to such a subject. The theater, or the conference would have better served the purpose of the authors, because such controversies have nothing photogenic, apart from the presence of the beautiful Françoise Fabian and that very good actor Jean-Louis Trintignant." Henry Chapier of Combat called it "a bit stiff and intellectual". Jean Rochereau of La Croix called it "A masterpiece ... whose superb insolence toward everyone excites me and fills me." Jean de Baroncelli of Le Monde wrote that "It is a work that demands from the viewer a minimum of attention and complicity. We find ourselves on the fringes of worries and obsessions of the time: its commitment goes beyond the everyday. Yet this is, in our view, worth the price. ... We are grateful to Eric Rohmer for his haughty, if a little outdated, austerity. The interpretation is brilliant." Penelope Houston wrote that "this is a calm, gravely ironic, finely balanced film, an exceptionally graceful bit of screen architecture whose elegant proportioning is the more alluring because its symmetry doesn’t instantly hit the eye".
It was Rohmer's first successful film both commercially and critically. It was screened and highly praised at the 1969 Cannes Film Festival, and later won the Prix Max Ophüls in France. It was released in the US and praised by critics there as well. James Monaco said that "Here, for the first time the focus is clearly set on the ethical and existential question of choice. If it isn't clear within Maud who actually is making the wager and whether or not they win or lose, that only enlarges the idea of "le pari" ("the bet") into the encompassing metaphor that Rohmer wants for the entire series." Its arthouse theater release in the US was so successful that it got a wider release in regular theaters.
The film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and Best Original Screenplay and was nominated for the Palme d'Or at the 1969 Cannes Film Festival. It won the 1969 Prix Méliès.
- List of submissions to the 42nd Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film
- List of French submissions for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film
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- Review Home movies JL Trintignant (archive) Archived 2015-02-23 at the Wayback Machine., on the Cinémathèque française website.
- Wakeman. p. 922.
- "French filmmaker Eric Rohmer dies at 89". CBC News. 2010-01-11. Retrieved 2010-01-11.
- John Wakeman, World Film Directors, Volume 2, 1945-1985. New York: H. W. Wilson, 1988. pp. 919-928.
- "The 42nd Academy Awards (1970) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Retrieved 2011-11-16.
- "The 43rd Academy Awards (1971) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Retrieved February 25, 2015.
- "Festival de Cannes: My Night at Maud's". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 2009-04-07.
- My Night at Maud's on IMDb
- My Night at Maud's at Rotten Tomatoes
- My Night at Maud's at AllMovie
- Criterion Collection essay by Kent Jones