Eric Rohmer's "Le genou de Claire" (1970), known in English as "Claire's Knee," is a tantalizing and deceptively simple exploration of desire, fascination, and self-deception, bolstered by nuanced performances and Rohmer's keen understanding of human nature.
Part of Rohmer's acclaimed "Moral Tales" series, "Claire's Knee" unfolds over the course of a summer holiday on Lake Annecy, where our protagonist, diplomat Jerome (Jean-Claude Brialy), finds himself enchanted by the knee of the titular Claire, a barely known teenage acquaintance. His fascination with her knee, an embodiment of unattainable beauty and youth, becomes an obsessive fixation that derails his pre-existing romantic plans.
The story is quiet and unassuming, with Rohmer's screenplay focusing heavily on dialogue. Conversations are the driving force of the narrative, as characters delve into matters of the heart, attraction, and moral propriety. Rohmer's style of storytelling lends itself to an authentic exploration of human behavior and thought, rendering even the most mundane moments profound.
Brialy's performance as Jerome is superbly layered, crafting a character who is both intriguing and frustrating. His interactions with the younger characters, particularly Laura (Béatrice Romand), are telling of his complex character - a man on the precipice of commitment yet indulging in a fantasy that only serves to distract him.
On a technical level, "Claire's Knee" boasts lovely, serene cinematography that emphasizes the tranquil beauty of its lakeside setting, contrasting the complex internal turmoil of its characters. The film's score, primarily classical music, adds an additional layer of refinement to the narrative.
In conclusion, "Le genou de Claire" is a thought-provoking character study that ponders attraction and infatuation in the face of commitment. It's a remarkable testament to Rohmer's ability to weave profound narratives out of seemingly simple premises.