National Society of Film Critics at 50: Rohmer’s Moral Tale, Claire’s Knee, Won the 1971 Best Picture

French title: Le Genou de Claire

The fifth movie in his series of Six Moral Tales, Eric Rohmer’s Claire’s Knee is a subtle, delicately structured feature about erotic desire, verbal and visual pleasure, and obsession, expressed as much though words as through intimate gestures and looks.


It’s also the movie that put him on the map internationally, especially in the U.S., where the film was a huge critical and commercial success.

Claire’s Knee won the 1971 Best Picture from the prestigious National Society of Film Critics (established in 1966 to counter the more middlebrow, New York Film Critics Circle).

Grounded in a specific time, Inter-title cards inform the viewers of the dates, June 29 to July 29, which are displayed before the events are visually shown.

Vacationing at Lake Annecy before his wedding, career diplomat Jérôme Montcharvain (Jean-Claude Brialy) accidentally meets up with his personal friend, the novelist Aurora (Aurora Cornu). Through Aurora, he meets Aurora’s landlady, Madame Walter (Michele Monell), and Laura (Beatrice Romand), Walter’s youngest teenage daughter.


Laura has immediate crush on Jérôme, and after taking a hike in the mountains together, she confesses of being “a little in love of” Jérôme.

Days later, Laura’s attractive older half-sister Claire (Laurence de Monaghan) arrives. Upon seeing Claire’s knee on a ladder, Jerome is longing to touch it, but manages to control his temptation.

During a boat trip on the lake, Jérôme and Claire seek shelter in a hut from an approaching storm. Jérôme tells Claire that he saw her boyfriend Gilles with another girl.

The upset Claire begins to cry, and Jérôme, while consoling her, finally pulls courage and expressed his repressed desire, placing his hand on her knee.


Claire’s Knee was Rohmer’s second film in color, based on his belief that “the presence of the lake and the mountains is stronger in color than in black and white. It is a film I couldn’t imagine in black and white. The color green seems to me essential in that film.”


Critical Status:

The film received the Louis Delluc Prize for Best French film of the year, and the 1971 Prix Méliès.

It was named Best Film by the National Society of Film Critics and Best Foreign Film by the National Board of Review. It was also nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the Golden Globes.

Running time: 106 Minutes



Jean-Claude Brialy as Jérôme Montcharvin, the diplomat

Aurora Cornu as Aurora, the novelist

Béatrice Romand as Laura, the younger half-sister

Laurence de Monaghan as Claire, the elder half-sister

Michèle Montel as Madame Walter, mother to Laura and Claire

Gérard Falconetti as Gilles

Fabrice Luchini as Vincent

Rohmer, Eric: Seminal French Director, Dies at 89