At Alliance Française on Fridays at 8 pm
The Alliance continues its series on Eric Rohmer for the first three weeks of June. The Rohmer May 15th program has been rescheduled for June 5.
At Alliance Française on Friday, June 5: Four Early Works by Eric Rohmer France. B&W. English subtitles.
A collection of philosophically-oriented early works by French New Wave auteur Eric Rohmer, whose meditative, deliberately-paced romance stories dramatize the inconstant nature of the human heart. Rescheduled from May 15, whose showing was cancelled due to gremlins (technical problems – no sound).
1. Présentation ou Charlotte et son steak / Presentation, or Charlotte and Her Steak (1960) by Eric Rohmer– 12 mins – France, Romance/ Comedy/ Short. B&W. English subtitles.
With Jean-Luc Godard, Andrée Bertrand, Anne Couderet.
Charlotte is leaving. Before catching her train, she goes to her apartment for a quick snack -- a steak, as it happens. Walter accompanies her; the little time Charlotte will take to prepare and eat her steak represents his last opportunity to patch things up with her. A tall order, given the utterly unromantic circumstances...
– Alliance description
2. Nadja à Paris / Nadja in Paris (1964) by Eric Rohmer – 13 mins – France, Short. B&W. English subtitles.
With Nadja Tesich (also the writer).
Nadja, a Yugoslavian-born American student, lives at the Cité Universitaire in Paris, strolls in the city and gives her impressions of the different districts she visits...
– Alliance description
IMDb viewer: … tells the story of a Yugoslavian-born girl, who was adopted by an American family, who goes to study at the Cité Universitaire in Paris. The character development, considering the brevity of the film, is pretty good, but overall, the film doesn't pack much of a punch at all. Rohmer's other films tend to have an overlying meaning (or "point"), often in a moral lesson. This short is basically a love letter to Paris. "We'll always have Paris." We've all heard that before, and we accept it. Hearing a student experiencing the joy of Paris for the first time isn't exactly exhilarating.
3. La boulangère de Monceau/ The Baker of Monceau / The Girl at the Monceau Bakery (1962) by Eric Rohmer – 23 mins – France, Romance/ Short. B&W. English subtitles.
With Barbet Schroeder, Michéle Girardon, Bertrand Tavernier, Claudine Soubrier, Fred Junk.
In Paris, in June, a young man approaches a girl in the street, but after several days without seeing her again, he becomes involved with the girl in the local bakery. Eventually he has to choose between them when he arranges dates with them on the same day...
– Alliance description
Simple, delicate, and jazzy, the first of the Moral Tales shows the stirrings of what would become the Eric Rohmer style: unfussy naturalistic shooting, ironic first-person voice-over, and the image of the “unknowable” woman. A law student (played by producer and future director Barbet Schroeder) with a roving eye and a large appetite stuffs himself full of sugar cookies and pastries daily in order to garner the attentions of the pretty brunette who works in a quaint Paris bakery. But is he truly interested, or is she just a sweet diversion?
IMDb viewer: The first of Eric Rohmer's six moral tales, The Girl at the Bakery Monceau is probably what newcomers to the unorthodox style film-making Rohmer employs should first be exposed to. Not because they should be seen in order but more or less due to the fact that the film is under thirty minutes. As in all the tales the theme (chauvinist male protagonist conflicted over two women) remains the same and in Monceau you are given a small dose of what will carry over into the full length explorations of men in self righteous struggle with reality and ideals.
Rohmer's literary style can be quite trying and his protagonists obnoxiously condescending. His characters are neither heroic nor noble. Rohmer's narrative style which depends heavily on interior monologue reveals some ugly truths that may not cause catastrophe but offer insightful points of view that makes the audience pause in reflection. We sometimes see ourselves in such reflections as well as friends and acquaintances.
Eugene O'Neil said, "We live in illusion and die in reality." In all of his tales Rohmer narrows that gap, exposing a humdrum reality with a fickle illusion born of self deception. There is a subtle subversive reward to be found in all of the "Moral Tales" and with The Girl at the Bakery Monceau he is off to an excellent start.
IMDb viewer: It's said that a writer tells the same story over and over again. Eric Rohmer during a period spanning some nine years developed an idea in regards to the relationship between a man, the ideal woman he loves, and the alluring temptation that presents itself as an aggressive female. In La boulangère de Monceau, he begins his six-part observation.
4. La carrière de Suzanne / Suzanne's Career (1963) by Eric Rohmer – 54 mins – France, Romance. B&W. English subtitles.
With Catherine Sée, Philippe Beuzen, Jean-Claude Biette, Patrick Bauchau,Christian Charrière,Diane Wilkinson, Pierre Cottrell.
Bertrand, a shy and reserved student, admires the rogue confidence of his best friend Guillaume while he exploit the generosity of the sweetly seductive Suzanne...
– Alliance description
Bertrand bides his time in a casually hostile and envious friendship with college chum Guillaume. But when ladies’ man Guillaume seems to be making a play for the spirited, independent Suzanne, Bertrand watches bitterly with disapproval and jealousy. With its ragged black-and-white 16mm photography and strong sense of 1960s Paris, Rohmer’s second Moral Tale is a wonderfully evocative portrait of youthful naiveté and the complicated bonds of friendship and romance.
IMDb viewer: The MO is the same the usual suspects in place in Erich Rohmer's second of his six moral tales. Lifeless amateur actors, cinematic style sacrificed for literary interior monologues about blasé people leading unremarkable lives. Suzanne is basically a three character story told by Bertrand, a bit of a self righteous twerp who remains conflicted about his feelings for the innocent and gullible Susan and his relationship with the amoral Guillaume who exploits Susan. Both men have a low opinion of Susan who in part brings it on herself by allowing the men to use her for her money and in the case of the rakish Guillaume for sex as well.
More concerned with character than plot, Rohmer gives us healthy servings of pettiness, ego, condescension, and denial served up by a self absorbed threesome blind to every one's view but their own. Less than an hour long (Rohmer time) the pace is still slow and the characters repetitious bad habits irritating but if one remains patient is rewarded with an ending rich in truth.While the more polished, bigger budgeted and lengthier later tales such as Claire's Knee and Love in the Afternoon have a more professional patina about them Suzanne sans all these trappings is still told in the same Rohmer unique way.
The films of Erich Rohmer are an acquired taste. In Night Moves, a hard boiled private investigator played by Gene Hackman says viewing a Rohmer film is like watching paint dry. For twenty years I agreed with this assessment. I may still, but once dried and finished I now see a work of interesting art that is both challenging and pure.
Suzanne is an interesting sketch but for those unfamiliar with Rohmer, I would recommend any of the last three of the six tales first for their accessibility. Watch one and if it doesn't agree with you, wait ten to twenty years and try again. In Rohmer's case patience is a necessity.
At Alliance Française on Friday, June 12: Ma nuit chez Maud / My Night at Maud's (1969) by Eric Rohmer – 110 mins – France, Drama/ Romance. Black and white. English subtitles. Generally favorable reviews: 80 out of 100.
With Jean-Louis Trintignant, Françoise Fabian, Maris-Christine Barrault, Antoine Vitez.
After spending several years abroad, Jean-Louis, an engineer recently settled in Clermont-Ferrand, longs for some peace and quiet. At the church he attends every Sunday, he notices a young blonde woman he fancies and decides that she will become his wife. Then, while at local restaurant, he meets Vidal, an old-school friend, now a professor of philosophy at Clermont-Ferrand University. Vidal invites him to spend ChristmasEve at Maud's house. A doctor and a divorcee, the dark-haired Maud, a beautiful, fascinating and single woman, is not impervious to Jean-Louis' charms...
– Alliance description
Rotten Tomatoes: The third film in Eric Rohmer's Comedies and Proverbs series, My Night at Maud's is the story of Jean-Louis (Jean-Louis Trintignant), an engineer for Michelin who, though a straitlaced, conservative, self-reflective Catholic, is nonetheless swayed by the wiles of the women who surround him. His motives are constantly unclear, and his actions contradict his moral preachings at every turn. As the film begins, Jean-Louis is living in a furnished rented apartment off the beaten path in Ceyrat, outside of a small suburb of Paris called Clermont. He spies a cute blonde in church and feels inspired to pursue her but is too shy. The rest of the film unfolds as a debate about morals, Catholicism vs. atheism, fidelity, and, of course, love. With his old high school friend, philosophy professor Vidal (Antoine Vitez), he passes an evening, then spends the night with the divorced, challenging, rebellious, yet ultimately adorable Maud. Though he is tempted by her provocations, he resists. That is, he resists long enough to go for the young woman he spotted among the pews. (And the earlier church scene is echoed in hilarious fashion with Jean-Louis and the blonde staring bleary-eyed up at an overwhelming sermon from an intimidating priest.) Overall, in classic Rohmer style, My Night at Maud's – which garnered an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay – is a long, looping dialogue that never resolves itself.
At Alliance Française on Friday, June 19: Le beau mariage / A Good Marriage (1982) by Eric Rohmer – 100 mins – France, Comedy/ Drama/ Romance. English subtitles. Generally favorable reviews: 73 out of 100.
With Béatrice Romand, André Dussollier, Féodor Atkine, Arielle Dombasle.
Sabine, whose family lives in Le Mans, studies Art in Paris. One evening, she breaks off with her lover who is already married and decides to find herself a husband…
– Alliance description
The secondof six films in Eric Rohmer's Comedies and Proverbs series.
Rotten Tomatoes: This, the second of six films in director Eric Rohmer's Comedies and Proverbs series, paints a cute but embarrassing portrait of Sabine (Béatrice Romand), a headstrong young woman longing for love, maturity, respect, commitment, and "the real thing." She packages up her woes, boldly walks out on her married lover, impulsively quits her job in an antique shop, and proudly announces that she has found the solution to all of her problems: She is getting married. This news comes as a big surprise to her older, happily married best friend Clarisse (Arielle Dambasle), who quickly recovers from her shock and warms to the task of finding a husband for Sabine. When Clarisse introduces Sabine to her painfully dull cousin, Edmond (André Dussollier), Sabine is easily convinced that he will fit the bill as her speedily chosen spouse, but Edmond is not as gullible as Sabine would care to think. Despite her aggressive pursuit of Edmond, he manages to slip out of her grasp, leaving her looking like a pouting adolescent--which she basically is. The strength of Rohmer's film resides in his delicate feel for the wonderfully loyal, understanding bond between Clarisse and Sabine and for the way that even Sabine's most ludicrous ideas are acknowledged and accepted by her friends and family. A Good Marriage, which reads like a coming-of-age tale, fits perfectly with the thematically similar films in the series, all of which spotlight struggling, passionate characters like Sabine.
Available from Amazon.com.
About the Director
Epinions.com: Eric Rohmer was born Maurice Schérer and was a literature professor in the 1940’s. He helped to found La Gazette du Cinema with Chabrol, Truffaut, and Godard, the group of radicals who later took jobs with Cahiers du Cinema, a film magazine. These film critics lambasted the French films of the 1950’s. Rohmer, in particular, was known as a staunch advocate of Alfred Hitchcock’s cinematic style and helped establish Hitchcock’s reputation. In the late 1950’s, these same critics turned to filmmaking, establishing what became known as the French New Wave. Rohmer was far more conservative than his fellow New Wave auteurs and broke with them when Cahiers du Cinema became too radically leftist for his taste in the 1960’s.
Despite Rohmer’s championing of Hitchcock (he coauthored a book about Hitchcock with Cabrol), his own film style is anything but Hitchcockian. Rohmer films are notorious for their lack of suspense, action, or plot. Instead, his films deal with educated young adults from the haute bourgeois engaged in endless conversation and a comedy of manners. What suspense exists revolves around the possibility that the characters may actually talk one another to death! Rohmer is particularly attuned to the romantic posturing of young men and women as they pursue the eternal dance. His moral viewpoint is Catholic and nineteenth century. Rohmer’s films seldom broach political or social controversies but are laced with literary and philosophical references. Viewers can count on witty, intelligent conversation, if little else.
The strength of a Rohmer script is that he avoids clichés and dialog that is overly obvious. He is interested in communication issues such as mixed messages. His characters seldom say precisely what they mean, leaving it up to viewers to evaluate the characters based on their behavior and motivations and not simply by their dialog. The dialog in Rohmer films is not predetermined when filming begins. Instead, it evolves out of discussion between the director and the actors. Rohmer films are low-budget affairs, seldom commercially successful, but thoroughly admired by a coterie of devoted fans. Cinematography is always a strength in Rohmer films, partly because many were photographed by cinematographer Nestor Almendros, who is widely admired. The sensitivity to color palette and lighting is exquisite. Rohmer has a stock company of actors that he uses over and over again and who are mostly little known outside of Rohmer films.
Rohmer’s oeuvre taken collectively is much more highly structured than that of virtually any other filmmaker. Most Rohmer films belong to series of four or six films sharing common thematic territory. After a couple of shorts and an unimportant debut film, The Sign of Leo (1959), Rohmer launched his first series of films under the heading “Six Moral Tales.” Rohmer hit his stride with the last three entries of this group, entitled My Night at Maud’s (1969), Claire's Knee (1970), and Chloe in the Afternoon (1972). Then, after a couple of out-of-character period pieces, The Marquise of O. . . (1976) and Perceval (1978), Rohmer launched a second series of six films under the rubric “Comedies and Proverbs.” This series began with The Aviator’s Wife (1981), followed by the present film, Le Beau Marriage (1982). The series then continued with Pauline at the Beach (1982), Full Moon in Paris (1984), The Green Ray (1986) (also known as Summer, which is how it is listed in the Epinions database), and My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend (1987). Between 1989 and 1998, Rohmer generated another series, this time just four films, called the “Tale of the Four Seasons”, including A Tale of Springtime (1989), A Winter’s Tale (1992), A Summer’s Tale (1996) and Autumn Tale (1998). He also directed another four films outside of the series format between 1986 and 2001. The series tactic of Rohmer has both advantages and disadvantages. On the one hand, it places each film in a larger context but, on the other hand, it results in inevitable comparisons within the group, such as which film in each group is best and worst. Rohmer, his devotees, and his critics all agree on one point about his films: even more than the average director, Rohmer has, in a sense, been making the same film over and over for forty years. Rohmer has been quoted as saying that “Instead of asking myself what subjects were most likely to appeal to audiences, I persuaded myself that the best thing would be to treat the same subject six times over in the hope that, by the sixth time, the audience would come to me!”