CINÉSALON: PAULINE AT THE BEACH (PAULINE À LA PLAGE) (Éric Rohmer, 1983)
French Institute Alliance Française, Florence Gould Hall
55 East 59th St. between Madison & Park Aves.
Tuesday, October 4, $14, 4:00 & 7:30
Series continues Tuesdays through October 25
“Love’s a form of insanity,” Pauline (Amanda Langlet) says in Éric Rohmer’s modern French classic, 1983’s Pauline at the Beach. The fifteen-year-old virgin turns out to be the most intelligent and honest character in the film, which earned Rohmer the Silver Bear for Best Director at the Berlin International Film Festival. Amanda Langlet stars as Pauline, a teenager who is spending the end of the summer on the Normandy coast with her older cousin, sexy fashion designer Marion (Arielle Dombasle). Windsurfing hottie Pierre (Pascal Greggory) wants to rekindle the romance that cooled off when Marion left to get married, but the now-divorced Marion lusts for Henri (Féodor Atkine), a balding, middle-aged father who is not nearly as serious about sex as Marion is. Meanwhile, Pauline and fellow teen Sylvain (Simon de La Brosse) start a cute flirtation that gets upended when Marion shows up at Henri’s beach house one afternoon to discover candy girl Louisette (Rosette) hiding in a bathroom with Sylvain. A series of lies, misunderstandings, and miscommunications — all the elements of a basic French sex farce — ensue as various characters reevaluate their relationships as well as their faith in love.
Photographed by the great Néstor Almendros, who worked extensively with Rohmer and François Truffaut, Pauline at the Beach is a sophisticated jigsaw puzzle of a romantic drama, as Marion, Pierre, Pauline, and Henri spend much of the film debating over just what love is, each justifying their own beliefs. While the grown-ups act like children, the two teens are more like adults when examining the future. The film is also a splendid time capsule of 1980s styles, from the cheesy music to the awesome hairstyles and bathing suits. Dombasle, who has had a long film career, is racy and seductive as the libidinous blonde, but Langlet, in her cinematic debut, steals the show with her fantastic bangs, skimpy bikini, and expressive puppy-dog eyes. The third in Rohmer’s 1980s “Comedies and Proverbs” cycle — which also includes The Aviator’s Wife, A Good Marriage, Full Moon in Paris, The Green Ray, and Boyfriends and Girlfriends — Pauline at the Beach is screening October 4 at 4:00 and 7:30 in the FIAF CinéSalon series “Beyond the Ingénue”; the later show will be introduced by author Min Jin Lee (Free Food for Millionaires). The series continues Tuesday nights through October 25 with Patricia Mazuy’s The King’s Daughters, Jacques Rozier’s Adieu Philippine, and a double feature of Antoine Desrosières’s Haramiste and Claire Denis’s US Go Home.