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Claire's Knee: The Criterion Collection

Eric Rohmer's Six Moral Tales: The Criterion Collection

Jerome (Jean-Claude Brialy) is an engaged diplomat on a summer retreat when he runs into an old friend and novelist Aurora (played by novelist Aurora Cornu). Aurora's staying with a family of a divorcée and her two daughters, of which the youngest, 16-year-old Laura (Beatrice Romand), develops a crush on Jerome. Laura and Jerome spend some time together at the encouragement of Aurora, and he's amused by Laura's crush on him — but views her benignly, talks about his impending marriage and the friendship he feels for his fiancée, and tries to guide Laura to a better understanding of dating. But Jerome quickly retreats from Laura when he meets her older, legal-aged half-sister Claire (Laurence de Monaghan). Claire is a stunner, someone who leaves Jerome without the ability to speak. And so he inserts himself into Claire's life as passively as possible while reporting his activities to Aurora, as Claire fritters about with her slightly abusive boyfriend Gilles (Gerard Falconetti). Jerome decides the focal point of his lust is her knee, and decides that if he can touch it in a knowing way it will extinguish his feelings for her. The fifth chapter of director Eric Rohmer's "Six Moral Tales," 1970's Le Genou de Claire ("Claire's Knee") deals with someone who perverts his lust by rationalizing his attraction to the point that he becomes deluded. Jerome — who like the other characters in the "Moral" cycle — is in a committed relationship, but his eyes and mind stray to others. Here, the main thrust is one's perspective on events: Jerome presents his idea of the situation to Aurora, but the truth of everything lies just under the surface. From an attempt to dance with Claire (she flatly rebuffs him), to trying to help her when she hurts her hand, Jerome is caught in the trap of being attracted to a woman who is not only stunningly gorgeous, but also almost entirely oblivious of him. But from Jerome's perspective their meetings have meaning to them both. Eventually he does get some time with her and has a chance to touch her knee, but, as with everything he does, this means something entirely different to him as it does Claire. In other episodes of the "Moral Tales," the idea of infidelity is a fine line for the characters to walk, but perhaps because the subject matter here revolves around younger women and older men, the sexuality is staid, and the tone is lightly comic. Nonetheless, as an insight into imaginary relationships, it's unparalleled. The Criterion Collection presents Claire's Knee in full frame (1.33:1 OAR) with the French audio on a DD 1.0 track and optional English subtitles. The transfer is much improved from the earlier Fox/Lorber release. Extras include Rohmer's 1999 short film "The Curve" (17 min.) and an excerpt from the French television program Le journal du cinema (9 min.) featuring interviews with Jean-Claude Brialy, Béatrice Romand, and Laurence de Monahagan. Theatrical trailer, folding digipak. Available exclusively in Criterion's "Eric Rohmer's Six Moral Tales" box-set.
—DSH



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