Claire’s Knee is the fifth film in Rohmer’s Six Moral Tales series as well as his second film in colour. Rohmer said the colour green of the surrounding nature was crucial to the film and would have never worked in black and white. Being a dialogue-heavy film it certainly needs a visual lift to balance out the dense conversations.
Jerome, a career diplomat who is about to get married, spends his holiday at Lake Annecy, seemingly by himself until he bumps into a former lover Aurore, who then introduces him to her landlord’s daughters. So far so good. The film was a huge commercial success internationally but there are some disturbing moments in this film. Like when we see Jerome kissing a teenage girl who loves to talk about love and relationships too much. Later on, Jerome becomes infatuated with her older sister Claire, or her knee to be precise. He then proceeds to discuss his urge to touch the knee and the emotions it causes with Aurore. She, a writer, starts elegantly plotting a little plan by herself and subtly pushes Claire and Jerome in the “right” direction. Claire, who has a boyfriend, is not interested in him at all, but at the same time, his obvious courting does intrigue her, although in an innocent way. She is beautiful with an impeccable figure. We don’t find out much about her, her character remains almost neutral. She is young, on holiday with her boyfriend, having fun together, she appears quiet and innocent, almost absent if it wasn’t for her beauty. The reason why she is flattered by Jerome’s advances is that she hasn’t experienced anything like this before. She seems even naive and focuses on her boyfriend.
What bothered me, even more, was the talk he then had afterwards with Aurore and starts dissecting the situation and how he has lost interest in Claire now
First admired, then exploited
At some point, Jerome exploits the situation where he finds himself stuck with Claire during a storm. The girl is visibly uncomfortable and after making her cry, he sits down to “comfort” her but really he is satisfying his urges. It looks like abuse to me. What bothered me, even more, was the talk he then had afterwards with Aurore and starts dissecting the situation and how he has lost interest in Claire now. Aurore just laughs. I felt sorry for the girl who doesn’t even realise what happened. To this day I find him one of the most unlikeable characters I have seen in a movie. His arrogance, that he shares by the way with Aurore, is groomed every day. He feels superior due to his intellect but what else does he enjoy other than talking about his damn urges and feelings? In the end, he gets rejected by both sisters. I still find little comfort in that, knowing him and his scheming friend stirred up a lot of shit. But hey, otherwise we wouldn’t have a story. The setting comes to life through boat rides, tennis games, hiking and cherry-picking. These actions combined with the vivid colours of the landscape are much needed to make this a classic summer film. That, and that we have multiple love stories going on here, with two pretty girls in the centre, with good fashion style as it’s the case with every Rohmer film.
Production credit on imdb.