The Aviator's Wife
Directed by
Eric Rohmer (France 106mins)
15 Nov 1980
Writing credits
Eric Rohmer
Philippe Marlaud .... François
Marie Rivière .... Anne
Anne-Laure Meury .... Lucie
Mathieu Carrière .... Christian
Philippe Caroit .... A Friend
Coralie Clément .... A Colleague
María Luisa García .... Girl Friend (as Lisa Hérédia)
Haydée Caillot .... Blonde
Mary Stephen .... Tourist
Neil Chan .... Tourist
Rosette .... Concierge
Fabrice Luchini .... Mercillat
Produced by
Margaret Ménégoz .... producer
Cinematography by
Bernard Lutic
Film Editing by
Cécile Decugis
Sound Department
Dominique Hennequin .... sound mixer
Gérard Lecas .... boom operator
Georges Prat .... sound
Other crew
Arielle Dombasle .... singer: "Paris ma séduit"
Romain Winding .... camera operator

The Aviator's Wife (1980)

The Aviator's Wife (La Femme de l'Aviateur) was the first of the series of six Comedies and Proverbs. The film is a witty comedy of errors, shot quickly and cheaply, using a lightweight camera, direct sound, minimal crew and real Parisian locations. The film illustrates the proverb: On ne saurait penser à rien (You can't think of nothing) and is a bitter-sweet demonstration of the gaps between people trying desperately to understand and be understood.

François (Philippe Marlaud) loves Anne (Marie Riviére), although he doubts that she returns his love. Working nights at the post office, he can't see her as often as he'd like. Anne is visited by an old lover, airline pilot Christian (Matthieu Carrière), who tells her he is returning to his wife. François sees Anne and Christian leave her apartment together, and he becomes jealous, thinking that Anne is cheating on him. Later he sees Christian with a blonde and he begins to follow them. In following the aviator François meets Lucie (Anne-Laure Meury), a bubbly 15-year-old whose character enables Rohmer to demonstrate his comic writing style.

The film is a wonderful portrayal of self-absorbed people enslaved by their own mistaken understanding of events. They mistreat each other and in so doing, miss the potential of the magic of love.

A perfect film: a tale of romantic engagements, disappointments, and ever fresh possibilities; all set in a springtime Paris. The film has a simple visual style, while its construction is intricate. The title character doesn't appear but she is the catalyst of the chain of events.

Rohmer's Comedies and Proverbs differ from his previous set of films: Moral Tales, in having young women, rather than older men, at their centre. However, much of The Aviator's Wife follows François. Apart from a short prologue and epilogue, the film's structure falls into three acts of more or less equal length and the action in those three acts takes place in one day between 7am and 7pm. In the second act François tracks Christian and the mysterious blonde, with the help of Lucie. Anne is the centre of the story as she tries to work out her feelings about her lovers, past and present, but the interaction between François and Lucie is enchanting.

As usual Rohmer's irony is aimed at his male characters in particular. François, on more than one occasion, appears to ignore the truth when it is told to him; that Anne, despite being fond of him, is not in love with him. One wonders how much François' actions and dialogue reflect his lack of sleep and whether as a result of his lack of sleep he is the one closest to 'thinking of nothing'.

The emphasis is not on what occurs, but on what the characters say and do and feel while it occurs. Rohmer has an exceptional ear for dialogue, which always reveals motivation and character.


• Mary Stephen, who became Rohmer's regular editor from A Winter's Tale onwards, plays one of the Canadian tourists.

• The park of the Buttes-Chaumont, where the middle section of the film takes place, is a location Rohmer had used before, in the 1964 short Nadja à Paris.

• Philippe Marlaud died from burns suffered in a camping accident, after a tent caught fire near Bormes-les-Mimosas, France on the 18th August 1981.