Eric Rohmer (France 94 mins)
23 Feb 1983
Amanda Langlet .... Pauline
Arielle Dombasle .... Marion
Pascal Greggory .... Pierre
Féodor Atkine .... Henri
Simon de La Brosse .... Sylvain
Rosette .... Louisette
Marie Bouteloup .... Marie (uncredited)
Michel Ferry .... Sylvain's Friend (uncredited)
Margaret Ménégoz .... producer
Original Music by
Film Editing by
Marie Bouteloup .... unit manager
Hervé Grandsart .... unit manager
Dominique Hennequin .... sound mixer
Gérard Lecas .... sound assistant
Georges Prat .... sound
Florent Bazin .... assistant camera
Pierre Coudsi .... assistant camera
Michel Ferry .... assistant manager
Caroline Thivel .... assistant editor
Six civilized people in a romantic comedy of manners; set against the backdrop of Normandy in late summer. The Atlantic is never far away with its wide beaches and changeable weather. This is the setting for Eric Rohmer's third film in his Comedies and Proverbs series. A film that highlights the way that adults deceive themselves.
This time, the film illustrates the proverb of Chretien de Troyes, a 12th-century French romantic poet: Qui trop parole, il se mesfait (A wagging tongue bites itself). As with all Rohmer movies the tongues certainly do wag.
Blue-eyed blonde Arielle Dombasle, who had a supporting role in A Good Marriage, plays Marion a successful fashion designer from Paris, who is in the process of divorcing her husband because she couldn't cope with his devotion.
She falls for Henri (Feodor Atkine), a thirty-something ethnologist who lives most of the year in the South Pacific. He is divorced and holidaying in Normandy with his small daughter Marie. Henri lives "without luggage, physical or moral." To start with he enjoys Marion's attention, but then becomes jumpy. Toward the end he confides to Marion's cousin Pauline that Marion didn't give herself time to be desired.
Pauline (Amanda Langlet) is 15, has never been in love, and watches her elders with a detached air as though they were from another planet. She meets Sylvain (Simon de La Brosse), a boy of her own age on the beach and their shared critical view of the others brings them close.
Then there's Pierre (Pascal Greggory), who is young, athletic and pompous. He tries unsuccessfully to win Marion's heart and ends up almost messing up everybody's holiday by disclosing what he believes to be the truth.
Finally there is Louisette, a local girl who sells bon bons on the beach during the day. Like Henri, she is a hedonist, and their quick bout of lovemaking one afternoon leads to the subsequent arguments between the others as to who was in bed with whom and why.
Throughout all of this, Pauline watches perceptively and puzzles over the irrationality of relationships and at the end of it all, she is the only one who is any wiser.
The relationships make these ordinary people interesting. Pierre and Marion look so much alike that they ought to be brother and sister. Marion is attracted to the 'free spirit' in Henri, but ends up trying to stifle that freedom, at least in his eyes. Pierre worries that both Marion with Henri and Pauline with Sylvain have made bad choices. Henri is a manipulative lover; Marion lies to herself about her wants and needs. Pierre is egotistical and judgemental and as a result comes across as a party-pooper.
Despite everything, amongst the mendacity and hopeless relationships, Pauline grows up and sees through it all. Rohmer does it with a simple plot, and a strong cast. The duplicity, the self-love and the lack of spontaneity of Marion, Pierre and Henri in their relationships contrasts with the frankness and the simplicity of Pauline and Sylvain.
• Eric Rohmer won the Best Director Silver Bear at the 1983 Berlin Film Festival for Pauline at the Beach.
• Amanda Langlet who plays Pauline later played a leading role in Rohmer's A Summer's Tale.
• The film's original working title was Sous le Soleil.
• Rosette who plays Louisette had a cameo role as the concierge in The Aviator's Wife.