Six Moral Tales
V. Claire's Knee
The multifaceted, deeply personal work of Eric Rohmer has had an effect on cinema unlike any other. One of the founding critics of the history-making Cahiers du cinéma, Rohmer began translating his written manifestos to film in the 1960s, standing apart from his New Wave contemporaries with his patented brand of gently existential, hyperarticulate character studies set against vivid seasonal landscapes. This near genre unto itself was established with the audacious and wildly influential series Six Moral Tales. A succession of encounters between fragile men and the women who tempt them, Six Moral Tales unleashed on the film world a new voice, one that was at once sexy, philosophical, modern, daring, nonjudgmental, and liberating.
The fifth film in Eric Rohmer’s Six Moral Tales, Claire’s Knee, has been given a Blu-ray upgrade in Criterion’s new box set, and is presented on a dual-layer disc in its original aspect ratio of 1.37:1. The 1080p/24hz high-definition encode is sourced from a new 2K restoration scanned from the 35mm original camera negative. The film shares the disc with Love in the Afternoon.
This new presentation offers yet another significant upgrade over the previous DVD edition (found in Criterion’s box set), and in just about every way. The one aspect that is questionable, like with the previous film—La collectionneuse—and its presentation, is that the colours do lean really warm, taking on a yellow tint to almost everything (yellow-ish skin, skies and water that can be more cyan, etc.) But, the colours on the DVD also leaned pretty warm, and also looked off, with me finding them a bit washed out, while they also pulsed in places. The colours on the title cards are also different between the two, having pink backgrounds here while the DVD’s presentation of the titles deliver them as more of a white (I’ll just note here that the DVD’s source was an interpositive). While I’m still not a huge fan of this lean towards yellow it at least suits the setting and look of the film, and I think it looks better in comparison to what the DVD offers.
The presentation is also significantly sharper with better detail, renders film grain better, and offers a far more photographic looking image. Black levels can be a off a bit (maybe a side effect of the yellow lean in colours), but outside of that (and a handful of blemishes) it’s a clean looking image and despite any of its faults I’ll take this picture over the DVD’s.
The film comes with a lossless PCM 1.0 monaural soundtrack and it sounds perfectly fine. Dialogue is clear, the track is clean, and there is no distortion. It’s also pretty flat and lacks range, but the film doesn’t call for much.
The three-disc set has features spread out for each individual film. 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, and the upscale here isn’t too bad.
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 supplements 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 colours lean yellow but I still found the picture offered a significant improvement over the DVD’s presentation. The supplements are still not significant but they are all at least tied more directly to the film they have been included with.