My Night at Maud's
(Ma nuit chez Maud)
A romantic triangle is one of the most common storylines in film. The characters are usually pretty well defined: a well meaning guy with a raging libido, a gorgeous woman with loose morals, and a sweet sensible girl pining for a husband. And of course, there is sex. But what if a film replaces this formula by replacing the libido with the intellect? Would it make things any less complicated? This is the intriguing concept of My Night at Maud’s, the third film in Eric Rohmer’s series, Six Moral Tales.
Jean-Louis, a recent convert to Catholicism, faithfully attends Mass, where one day he catches the eye of a pretty lady named Françoise. He decides that he wants to pursue a relationship with her. But then an old friend invites him to visit his friend Maud, an attractive divorcee, in her apartment. The two of them engage in philosophical discussions that test Jean-Louis’ intellect and spiritual convictions, and Maud invites him to stay the night.
Now Jean-Louis faces a couple of moral quandaries. One is obvious: will he sleep with Maud? But the other is: has he already pledged his heart? Will he choose his intellectual soul-mate—the free-thinking Maud—or his spiritual one—the religious Françoise?
The resolution to this dilemma turns the table on the Hollywood depiction of modern romance. A man and a woman share a bed together and do nothing but, talk? A romantic triangle that isn’t resolved with sex, money, or power, but instead turns on a debate about the philosophy of Blaise Pascal? And a film that respects the minds and hearts of men and women more than their libidos? How liberating!