Rohmer had always conceived of this story—of a Catholic mathematician torn between indulgence and asceticism—as the third installment in the Moral Tales, but he shot it fourth, having taken years to extract commitments from his wary producers and from his reluctant star, Jean-Louis Trintignant. No other actor, Rohmer insisted, could capture the agony this character goes through, having to choose between the prim churchgoer he hopes to marry and the confident divorcée at whose house he ends up sleeping during a snowy Christmas Eve. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine anyone else conveying that combination of intelligence and boyish idealism, stooped reticence and contained lust, as well as Trintignant. And while Rohmer’s financiers balked at the prospect of a black-and-white film stocked with long conversations about free will and Pascal, My Night at Maud’s became one of Rohmer’s biggest popular and critical successes—a luminous, sexy, unerringly intelligent treatment of romantic and religious indecision.
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