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A Good Marriage
cast: Béatrice Romand, André Dussolier, Féodor Atkine, Adrielle Dombasle, and Huguette Faget

director: Eric Rohmer

95 minutes (PG) 1981
Arrow DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by Paul Higson
From the director's Comedies et Proverbs series and thankfully coming just before the onset of those dreadful fashions of the mid-1980s, A Good Marriage (aka: Le Beau Marriage) is led by a protagonist that is another of his infuriating women, refreshing in her openness but impossible in her childishness. At 25, Sabine (Béatrice Romand) has had enough of her inconclusive bohemian life as the other woman in a series of relationships and in an equally impetuous decision, that she refuses to back off from, determines that she will instead marry. "C'est un peu concession por la vie social." She does not want to marry any of the men that she has known and with an equally impulsive move and the ill advisement of friend Clarisse (Arielle Dombasle) on a possible fiancée Sabine sets her sights on a solicitor named Edmond (André Dusollier). Edmond, though, is all work and nothing interpersonally serious, and Sabine's girlish pursuance is only an embarrassment to all. Edmond is clearly wrong for her, uncomfortable with her romanticism, and dropping several hints, like the deliberately 'thoughtless' gift at her 25th birthday, a brown cup he tells her he "found in a drawer." Because the film doesn't race through the situation it ambles out as a realistic struggle for Sabine to bring the two of them together, her character is only slightly heightened after all.
   This gives the characters plenty of time to discuss their motives. Sabine's mother (Thamila Mezbah) behaves as if over-familiar with her daughter's whimsical directions. Clarisse has her own wedding date set and this is doubtlessly the real reason for Sabine's quest for a husband. With the best friend shortly to be socially recalibrated by married life, perhaps it will bring everything back into balance if Sabine can be married also. Clarisse has independence, a creative job and her own shop, so already has that advantage on Sabine. She is probably more of an influence on her than is healthy. It would explain why the playful Clarisse never pulls her up until it is clearly to late and suggests she is aware she is part of the problem. Soon you are asking for the real reason Sabine is an art student. Is it that in her own creative redundancy to know the arts is the meanwhile closest she can get to being her friend and through the studying she might find a path to her own creativity eventually. She speaks of finding her creative side, displays her few gilt-free 'paintings', leftovers from her youth but clearly has no new free time to risk on the possibility of producing actual artwork. Her bedroom is a cheap gallery to her tastes with posters and pictures, and is the only deliberately off-colour irregularity in this carefully composed film, none-too promising given her aspirations as an artist. This interpretation could be one of many as Rohmer deftly avoids giving too much away. Little in terms of backstory is entreated to us, the concentration is on the immediate idea and its effect on those involved.
   We like her honesty, too many people kow-tow to the white lie and the euphemism. "I never agree out of politeness. I prefer to argue," she says at dinner with Edmond. Having said her mind throughout it is with closing disappointment that when met with a brutally honest opinion, that puts her own allure and purpose into question, she springs into a dishonest corner, denying what is clearly so, and stroppily accusing the other of being the liar.
   The film looks great, comforting in soft rose, 'faded pinks', blues and browns, the colours of the film. The stone paved side streets of old quarter Le Mans have the shops in which Sabine and Clarisse work, locations that remind of Truffaut's Vivement Dimanche, made the same year. If not antiquarian shop and traditional workplace, worn old buildings, warm interiors, mansions, receptions and white light invite us into each new scene. When Sabine passes on to her mother an invite to Clarisse's cousin's wedding reception up at the house, selling it on the view from the window, mother gives it a miss and devalues the view as being "the same [as] from the road." When that view is caught on film we are invited to disagree.
   The extras are the original theatrical trailer and eight minutes of an interview with the director recorded at the Cinema de Cineastes in 1982. There is high praise for his star, Béatrice Romand who he talks of as a great articulator, "a slow speaker." The speed of her delivery does rein in the general dialogue and sans subtitles this could make it useful for intermediate French language students. Sabine is the right balance of fascination and irritation, a part-time amusement whose notions principally lie in the sensible even if her route to their exploration does not follow suit. You are drawn to and repelled by her in the same instance, a perfect safe distance made. French film fans being junkies for the intelligent, emotional situation will enjoy her mild predicament though it is naturally not as bedevilling as some. A relative leanness and a sparseness of personal histories offer possible variations with each running to look forward to. The central story is settled and dealt with at once but is no less worth savouring in the precision backdrops and colour curtaining of this one and only director.
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