Aviator’s Wife, The (Blu-ray Review)

  • Reviewed by: Stuart Galbraith IV
  • Review Date: May 23, 2024
  • Format: Blu-ray Disc
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Aviator’s Wife, The (Blu-ray Review)


Éric Rohmer

Release Date(s)

1981 (November 14, 2023)


Les Films du losange (Kino Lorber)
  • Film/Program Grade: A-
  • Video Grade: A-
  • Audio Grade: A-
  • Extras Grade: B-

The Aviator's Wife (Blu-ray)

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The Aviator’s Wife (La Femme de l’aviateur, 1981) was the first installment in French director Éric Rohmer’s Comedies & Proverbs series, and while François, the film’s 20-year-old protagonist, is a bit like Albert Brooks’s obsessive boyfriend in Modern Romance, I wouldn’t exactly call this a comedy. Rather, it’s more of a fascinating character study whose plot is contained within a single day, starting in the early morning and concluding shortly after nightfall.

François (Philippe Marlaud) is a student who also works the overnight shift at a Parisian post office. He’s in love with 25-year-old Anne (Marie Rivière), and as the story opens he arranges for a plumber to come fix her sink, but needs to check with her about the appointment time, an excuse, perhaps to visit her. However, nearing the apartment he catches her leaving the building with Christian (Mathieu Carrière), Anne’s ex-boyfriend, a handsome airline pilot. Unbeknownst to François, Christian has told Anne that he’s decided to return to his wife, now pregnant, and that he’s leaving Paris later that afternoon.

François, believing Anne and Christian are still romantically involved and that she is cheating on him, wanders aimlessly around Paris, eventually catching sight of Christian at an outdoor station café with another woman. François obsessively follows the couple from a distance as they board a bus and end up at a park, where they talk along a riverbank. Along the way, François meets Lucie (Anne-Laure Meury), a 15-year-old student who initially thought François was trying to pick her up. When he confesses the real purpose at the park, she becomes intrigued and decides to tag along.

The film’s full title in fact reads La Femme de l’aviateur ou: “On ne saurait penser à rien(The Aviator’s Wife or: “It is impossible to think about nothing”), reflecting François’s inability to roll with the punches because he’s too busy filling his mind with assumptions about Anne that may or may not be true and which, in any case, are things he cannot control anyway. The screenplay cleverly positions him coming off a long third-job at the post office at the beginning of the story then, instead of sleeping during the day, he pointlessly follows a man he’s not even certain is Christian all around Paris in a state of increasingly exhaustion and irrationalness. Anne, for her part, is far more casual, even ambivalent, about her sexual relationships, but finds little happiness living in precisely the opposite way François does. She’s overwhelmed by all these suitors wanting to spend time with her.

Typical of Rohmer, there are long, LONG conversations between characters, and lots of footage following characters from place-to-place, going about living their ordinary lives. Sometimes with Rohmer this can be tiresome, but The Aviator’s Wife never wears out its welcome. The three major characters are all interesting, especially François and plucky Lucie, who’s like a combination of Diane Keaton’s usual persona and the kind of Hitchcock heroine eager to tag along with the protagonist to track down the real killer (or whatever).

Philippe Marlaud is so good as François that I wondered why I hadn’t seen him in other French films. It turns out this was only his second film; Marlaud next appeared in a French TV-movie immediately after this but then in August 1981—five months after The Aviator’s Wife’s release—was camping when his tent caught fire and burned to death. He was just twenty-two years old. Natural and innately appealing on-camera, his was a tragic loss.

Like her character, Anne-Laure Meury was only 15 years old when this was made but looks like she was in her early 20s. Certainly her acting is beyond her years, on a level with Marlaud’s. Her inquisitiveness and playful flirting are likewise very natural. The acting is invisible and their performances could pass as something from a documentary.

Kino’s Blu-ray of The Aviator’s Wife is presented in 1920x1080p widescreen, preserving its 1.66:1 aspect ratio. Apparently, parts or maybe all of the film was shot in 16mm, and while the image is a little grainy, it looks quite good if that were the case. Less appealing is that the video transfer has a slightly greenish tinge throughout. Much of the film seems to have been shot on overcast days, which may explain this some, but the color timing does seem slightly off to my eyes and I found this a little distracting at times. The DTS-HD Master Audio (2.0 mono), French only with optional English subtitles, is fine, though I found the subtitles wanting here and there, with bits of conversation, text on hand-written notes, etc. not fully reflected in the subtitling. Region “A” encoded.

The lone extra is a good audio commentary track by film historian Adrian Martin and a Summer of Rohmer trailer.

Rohmer’s film gets at the heart of how even people in committed relationships are sometimes terminally unhappy through their own self-destructiveness. That’s more ironic than comical, but The Aviator’s Wife is nothing if not insightful.

- Stuart Galbraith IV