“Why would I tie myself to one woman if I were interested in others?” says Jerôme, even as he plans on marrying a diplomat’s daughter by summer’s end. Before then, Jerôme spends his July at a lakeside boardinghouse nursing crushes on the sixteen-year-old Laura and, more tantalizingly, Laura’s long-legged, blonde stepsister, Claire. Baring her knee on a ladder under a blooming cherry tree, Claire unwittingly instigates Jerôme’s moral crisis and creates both one of French cinema’s most enduring moments and what has become the iconic image of Rohmer’s Moral Tales.
The Criterion Collection presents Eric Rohmer’s Claire’s Knee—the fifth film of his “moral tales”—on the fifth DVD (which is dual-layer) of Criterion’s Six Moral Tales box set. The film is presented in the aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and comes from a high-definition restoration sourced from a 35mm interpositive.
After La collectionneuse, which looked good despite a general softness, I was expecting this one to shine, but was I ever let down. In general, the presentation, at least digitally, is fine. The image is pretty sharp and does manage to deliver a decent level of detail throughout, with compression never seeming to get in the way, but it really feels like the colours are off. They’re warmer, but they also have a washed-out look and there are moments where things go green-ish or present a bit of a pulse where the colours shift a bit.
I was distracted by this aspect enough where I felt it impacted the image. It’s ends up being a bit of a shame because restoration wise, outside of a few minor blemishes, the source is actually in decent shape.
Dialogue can sound a bit edgy in places and there is subtle background noise, but outside of that the Dolby Digital monaural presentation is perfectly fine and suits the very talkative film.
Criterion spreads supplements across the six discs of their Six Moral Tales box set. Claire’s Knee comes with a couple, including a 1999 short film called The Curve. Interestingly Rohmer only served as a technical advisor on the film, which was directed by Edwige Shaki. I was thrown off by its inclusion at first but it becomes clear that it has been included here because it shares some thematic similarities to Claire’s Knee. An art student becomes intrigued by a sculpted figure (sans head and arms), his attention drawn to the curve of the back. He then comes across a woman who he assumes served as the model and starts a relationship with her, eventually the two getting into a conversation about how he compares the physical assets of women to works of art, which is what attracts him. The short seems to be ultimately how art can objectify women, with the film even bordering on objectifying the woman in the film (played by Shaki). It’s interesting, though I think its point is made early in its 17-minute runtime, and it does have a student-film vibe to it. It was shot digitally (standard-definition) but does look pretty good.
Following this is then a 9-minute excerpt from a 1970 French television program called Le journal du cinema, and features interviews with some of Claire’s Knee’s cast: Jean-Claude Brialy, Beatrice Romand, and Laurence de Monaghan. Brialy knew Rohmer before the film and talks a little about that while the two young woman recount working with him and what he was like, which leads the two in a bit of a conversation about his personality. It’s not terribly insightful but still interesting, and it’s one of the few supplements in the set specific to the respective film.
The disc then close with the film’s theatrical trailer.
Like the others it doesn’t receive a stacked set of features, but these supplements at least work to target the film they’re included with, and I appreciated the inclusion of the short that I probably would have never seen otherwise.
The supplements are fine if slim, but presentation looks off thanks to the colours, which look lifeless and dull, and can take on odd tints.