Greatest Film Scenes
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Chloe in the Afternoon (1972)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Chloe in the Afternoon (1972, Fr.) (aka Love in the Afternoon, or L'Amour, L'Après-Midi)

In Eric Rohmer's romantic drama about marriage infidelity - the 6th film in his "Six Moral Tales" series (from 1962 to 1972), and somewhat similar to F.W. Murnau's Sunrise (1927):

  • the rich escapist, heterosexual fantasy life of bourgeois (middle-class) Parisian lawyer Frédéric (Bernard Verley), married for three years to pregnant wife Hélène (Françoise Verley, her co-star's real-life wife), a suburban English teacher, who have an infant girl
  • the self-absorbed, chauvinistic, girl-watching Frederic's many flirtations with shop-girls and secretaries, and other attractive women on the street
  • the film's self-referential daydream fantasy sequence (homage to The Seven Year Itch (1955)) in which Frederic possessed a magic amulet or talisman "capable of destroying free will" worn around his neck - it could conquer a woman by taking away her will-power, to easily persuade her to have sex; as he sat in a cafe, he watched through the window as six females passed - some of the stars of the last three of Rohmer's previous five films - he described them as: "indifferent, hurried, hesitant, busy, accompanied, alone"
  • Frederic approached each of the six women individually, in a different order, who quickly acquiesed to his very forward requests to be with him or to kiss him:
    - Maud (Françoise Fabian) in My Night at Maud's (1969) "INDIFFERENT"
    - Françoise (Marie-Christine Barrault) in My Night at Maud's (1969) "HESITANT"
    - Haydee (Haydée Politoff) in La Collectionneuse (1967) (aka The Collector) "BUSY"
    Aurora (Aurora Cornu) in Le Genou de Claire (1970) (aka Claire's Knee) "ALONE"
    - Claire (Laurence de Monaghan) in Le Genou de Claire (1970) (aka Claire's Knee) "ACCOMPANIED"
    - Laura (Béatrice Romand) in Le Genou de Claire (1970) (aka Claire's Knee) "HURRIED"
  • however, when the amulet malfunctioned and stopped blinking, he was berated by Laura: ("You won't talk me into it....Why should I go with you?")
  • Frederic's growing friendship with calculating and seductive, devious, sexually free-spirited bohemian Chloé (Zouzou, a real-life model and rock groupie), his friend Bruno's ex-lover with suicidal tendencies; Chloe claimed to work as a bargirl at the sleazy Agamemnon
  • tempted by the manipulative but lost soul Chloe, he assisted her in acquiring a better job, and spent many furtive afternoons with her during his lunch break, slowly being lured to take her as his mistress and become unfaithful to his wife
  • the erotic sequence during Frederic's first visit to Chloe's apartment, when she asked ("Isn't it nice here?") and then entered into his embrace on the bed; as he hugged her, he lifted her shirt and gently stroked her bare back; although he was becoming emotionally attached to her, he spoke about his strong marital relationship: "You know, I'm very much in love with my wife right now"; she was miffed: "I know, if you love her, then don't come here"; Frederic admitted his dilemma: "I'm so attracted to you, I wonder if I can resist. My will is shaken. I sometimes wonder if we shouldn't go to bed together. Is it possible to love two women at once? Is that normal?"; she responded: "Depends on what you call love. Love with passion, no. But passion doesn't last. If you mean sleeping with several girls, even caring for them, nothing is more banal, everybody does it. Actually, polygamy is natural"; he disagreed: "Polygamy, that's barbarian, the enslavement of women"
"Love in the Afternoon" Between Frederic and Chloe
  • shortly later, in a more sensual sequence in her apartment, Chloe emerged nude from the shower (a parallel scene to the one in the opening with his wife Helene), and asked Frederic to towel her off: "You can kiss me. Water doesn't stain. Dry me. Do it right. Really dry me"; after a passionate kiss in return, she reclined on the bed awaiting Frederic for sex, while posing as the famous portrait of Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres' concubine in La Grande Odalisque; as Frederic prepared to undress and commit adultery, he paused as he removed his turtleneck over his head (a reminder of his domestic life) in front of the bathroom mirror - and impulsively decided to not be unfaithful and abruptly return to his stable and intelligent wife; he quietly exited and fled down the five flights of stairs (seen from an overhead POV, reminiscent of Hitchcock's Vertigo (1958)) to his office where he called Helene and told her that he was returning home early
  • the concluding sequence - in his home on the sofa with Helene, he complimented her on her intimidating beauty: ("I'm sitting next to you and you make me shy because you're so beautiful - You've never been so make me shy because I love you"), and confusedly apologized for their lack of closeness: ("I don't want you to think it's coldness"); Helene countered: ("I'm the one who's cold. Much more than you. You're perfect"); he also expressed how he felt about not confiding in her more: ("I feel guilty because I don't talk to you much, confide in you"); as she began crying, he hugged her to comfort and calm her - and awkwardly began unzipping the back of her dress for "love in the afternoon" since the au pair was out with the children until 5 pm; she suggested: "Let's go into the bedroom"
  • the final image of the 'happy ending' - a pan from the sofa over to a serene shot looking out the window of their living room - symbolizing their staid 'bourgeois' life, but asking the question: had Frederic been cured of his wanderings and aloofness to Helene?

Frederic with Helene

Magic Amulet

The Amulet's Power Over Women

With Chloe

Vertigo (1958) Homage

Concluding Sequence: Frederic at Home With Helene

Final Image


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