I understand what you mean, and Rohmer succeeded at conveying just that. It's not as light and superficial as it may seem, it's just made to look like it, and the truth, the real bottom line is a lot more depressing. I thought the choice of locations for the whole was just stunningly accurate for this kind of story. Here we are, in a slick "Nouvelle Ville" (those artificial cities built out of nothing), where people are walking around like extras from a movie. It's all white, clean, with no history, no personal touch but the replication of architectural patterns taken from elsewhere. The design of the whole thing seems just to accommodate the needs and leisure of the yuppies living there, with no historical perspective or depth of view. The "old" landscapes are kept at a distance, just as if the characters were inside a bubble (à la Logan's Run, perhaps!). Even the vegetation is just beginning to grow : small tress, yet-to-grow lawns. It's only when Blanche and Fabien wander off in the wilderness that she cries, seemingly overwhelmed by the forces of nature (it's a pattern that we can see in le Rayon Vert, too), as if she was completely out of her element, her empty white apartment. The characters seem to be playing with each other so they can forget that there is a great nothingness just underneath it all. Very existential! And indeed, kind of depressing. But great movie all the same. Only Rohmer can achieve such a level of ambiguity, which is a great trait in a director.
These are some good points, too.
It's been a while since I saw it. But i remember that I was ill, so the locations really increased their power to make me feel weird. My grandma used to live in some sort of new designed city centre that didn't grow but was just placed somewhere. Probably those memories were also included. Great director. I still have 6 unwatched movies in the Rohmer box set that I will definitely watch through the next week. Excited how those will be!
... On the other hand, as Rohmer is not really a director who explores despair or emptiness too often, I'm beginning to think he used the setting of the nouvelle ville as a sort of neo-classical background, like some modern-day Versailles. He does seem to dwell long enough on the "classical" patterns of this modern architecture. Perhaps it could be seen as an 18th century story of badinages set in the 1980s, just the way an 18th century writer would have chosen to show such a story if he had be transported to modern times. It would be the same intellectual process as for Perceval le Gallois : it's a film that shows Perceval's story just as if Chretien de Troyes had been the director. Maybe we're onto something here! I too had to overcome the depressing aspect of this new architecture. I would never be comfortable living there.
If you have 6 unwatched Rohmers to go, well, lucky you!
I actually admired the exteriour architecture, though not the sterile interiours, and I think Roehmer may have too.
See a list of my favourite films here: http://www.flickchart.com/slackerinc