It was a surprise to everyone, including director Eric Rohmer, that My Night at Maud's was a success. The film violated almost all the rules of popular filmmaking. It had no crime, no explicit sex, no violence, and no action. As English Showalter points out in his excellent introduction to the volume, half the film was spent on one scene in which three characters seem to talk endlessly about subjects of little interest to a general audience--religion (Catholicism in particular), philosophy, Pascal, morality, even mathematics. The film explores the unexpectedly complex relationships between two men and two women, and seems to end with the affirmation of traditional values such as chastity, piety, and the family. All this at the end of the sixties, when other popular French films by directors such as Godard, Truffaut, Chabrol, and Varda were attempting to comment on and were succeeding in reflecting turbulent times and ideas in their work.
Showalter discusses the film in the context of Rohmer's conservative film theory and explains its relationship to the other films in the director's series of Six Moral Tales. He shows how Rohmer's sense of place and his techniques of film narration develop the theme of moral choice in a story about love and chance encounters with a delightfully ironic conclusion.
The volume also contains a selection of background and critical materials, including interviews with Rohmer and pertinent statements by him, reviews of the film from several countries, and important criticism of the film from the past twenty years. A brief biography, filmography, and selected bibliography are also included. This volume will be indispensable for anyone studying this important film, and will delight those who just want to enjoy it.