Pauline at the Beach

| July 11, 2011

“You just go on believing one thing and I will go on believing the opposite. That way we’ll both be satisfied. OK?”
You don’t find too many people who aren’t enchanted by France’s Nouvelle Vague. With Truffaut’s The 400 Blows and Godard’s Breathless, the world of cinema was forever changed. What’s even more appealing is the lesser known members of the New Wave. Though no secret to European cinema, Eric Rohmer’s popularity in the States usually ends with La Collectioneuse.
Pauline at the Beach, Rohmer’s third film from his “Comedies and Proverbs” series, reminded me of a well endowed teen movie. I do not mean this negatively. On the contrary, the story of Pauline and her cousin’s summer romances works like Shakespearean melodrama. The French director’s philosophical musings on love and its mechanics make Pauline more than a simple comedy.
The film tells the story of adolescent Pauline and her slightly older (and quite attractive) cousin Marion. While sunbathing, the women see an old friend, Pierre, and meet his acquaintance, Henri. In that customary French fashion, Henri invites the group back for dinner that evening.
In the after supper conversation, Pauline listens as the three adults discuss their romantic endeavors. Forced to give her opinion on the party’s affairs, Pauline admits that everyone present has exhibited good and bad ideas on love. As the conversation comes to a close, the group decides to go dancing for the evening.
Convinced of his undying love for Marion, Pierre makes his move. Repulsed by her friend’s advances, Marion decides to sleep with Henri. After seeing the couple in bed the following morning, Pauline decides to return to the beach in search of a boy named Sylvian, who she saw the day before. The two eventually meet up and begin a romance of their own.
When Henri acts a little bit too of his own accord (“I’ve lived and loved and I’m tired of it. So what if I can’t stay with one woman?”), Pierre too jealous, and Sylvian too young, Pauline struggles as her heart is pulled in multiple directions. With Rohmer’s organic direction, thoughtful writing, and tight editing, Pauline at the Beach contains the right amount of sex, love, and philosophy to keep anyone interested.

About the Author:

Daniel currently resides in New York City working as a freelance writer and director. He is a graduate of the Film and Video department of Columbia College, specializing in Italian Neo-realism and French & British New Wave cinema.
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