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The last of Rohmer's Six Moral Tales. Frederic leads a bourgeois life; he is a partner in a small Paris office and is happily married to Helene, a teacher expecting her second child. In the afternoons, Frederic daydreams about other women, but has no intention of taking any action. One day, Chloe, who had been a mistress of an old friend, begins dropping by his office. They meet as friends, irregularly in the afternoons, till eventually Chloe decides to seduce Frederic, causing him a moral dilemma.Written by
The most popular entries in the late Eric Rohmer's long and distinguished career are, undoubtedly, his "Six Moral Tales" which began in 1963 with the short THE BAKERY GIRL OF MONCEAU and ended with the film under review. For the record, I was genuinely impressed with the centerpiece of the sextet – MY NIGHT AT MAUD'S (1969), which is easily Rohmer's most popular film – and, many years ago, I had also watched the successive chapter LA COLLECTIONNEUSE (shot in 1967 but released in 1971!) but I have only vague recollections of that one and some of the later Rohmers that I have seen since then. But back to CHLOE' or, I should say, LOVE IN THE AFTERNOON which is the film's original title (although, obviously enough, it bears no relation whatsoever to Billy Wilder's 1957 tribute to his idol Ernst Lubitsch)! Speaking of idols, the lead actor here, Bernard Verley, portrayed (irony of ironies) Jesus Christ in one of the major works of my own personal cinematic idol, Luis Bunuel's THE MILKY WAY (1969) and, besides, the central situation of the movie is also dealt with in one of my favorite band's loveliest songs, The Velvet Underground's "Pale Blue Eyes" (which, likewise, dates from 1969)!! In CHLOE', Verley plays a happily married man (unsurprisingly enough to his own real-life wife Francoise, no less – in her first of just two screen appearances) who spends his daily idle time (train journeys, lunch breaks, etc.) entertaining the notion of betraying his wife with every woman he meets! In fact, much has been made of the fact that CHLOE' includes the only dream sequence (featuring cameos by the likes of Marie-Christine Barrault, Francoise Fabian and Haydee' Politoff) in Rohmer's entire oeuvre but, frankly, I did not find the reverie all that extraordinary in itself; actually, the purposefully cheesy electronic score (redolent of the then-currently topical sci-fi pieces for the intelligentsia) over the opening credits seems to me to have been more of a successful 'departure' for Rohmer . Anyway, flanked by two particularly attractive secretaries, Verley is never too far away from the company of desirable women but always manages to resist temptation and uphold his marriage fidelity vows that is until the long-lost titular character presents herself unheralded in his office one day and just keeps coming back! Portrayed by the tomboyish, bob-haired Zouzou (more on her fascinating life history later), Chloe' is the epitome of sheer kookiness: free-spirited and fun-loving but also passionate and volatile. A past acquaintance of Verley (she was once his best friend's girl), she had subsequently gone abroad and through several short-lived romances but, not having accomplished much of significance career-wise, comes back to her roots and, consequently, Verley. After breaking up with her current casual boyfriend (who also employs Chloe' as a nightclub hostess), she asks Verley to find her a respectable job and, gradually, they take to meeting up every afternoon during his lunch-break (without, of course, letting the wife in on these innocent escapades). Eventually, he aids Chloe' to settle into a new apartment but one day she drops the bomb: confessing to him that he has been her ideal all along and she wants to bear his son! Verley and Zouzou do get to shack up at her apartment one afternoon and a bathing Chloe' invites him to dry her with a towel...but this is as far as it goes because, by the time she has gotten into bed, Verley has sensibly rushed out of there and back into the rightful arms of his wife! To return to the real Zouzou for a minute: born Daniele Ciarlet, she came to prominence in 1961 on the Paris scene as a nightclub twist sensation and, eventually, started hobnobbing with an elite crowd that included Andy Warhol, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones' Brian Jones (with whom she had a two-year affair), Marianne Faithful and Jack Nicholson! Rohmer's film, her looks and enviable connections should have rightfully turned her into an international superstar but, as with so many others before and since, she witnessed her career potential waste away via drug addiction and unwise decisions. Apart from Zouzou's utterly entrancing performance, the film's trump card is its flawlessly perceptive depiction of the marital state of mind and, more importantly on a personal level, that fine line that exists between friendship and love – where somebody's platonic feelings for, say, a colleague can transform themselves with time (and virtually imperceptibly) from affectionate camaraderie to genuine love. Perhaps I ought not to be admitting this here but, the erratic nature of my film-viewing habits for the last two months or so, can be directly attributed to just such an unforeseen event happening to me although, lamentably I might add, I play the part of Chloe' in my own private everyday morality play!!
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