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Rohmerathon: Pauline at the Beach, by Scott Nye

22 Jun

Rohmer departs from his convention in two significant ways with 1983’s Pauline at the Beach. It is his first film featuring a teenage protagonist, and, not coincidentally, it is his first with a passive one as well. Most films about teenagers posit them in the dreaded “coming-of-age” genre, which ensures they will make a lot of the stupid mistakes kids make but also remain, disproportionate to their familial status, captains of their own destiny. Pauline (Amanda Langlet) isn’t even nominally beholden to her parents – her older cousin Marion (Arielle Dombasle) is her guardian for a trip to the northern coast in the waning weeks of summer. But teenagers, famous though they may be for their misbehaving and their loud music, are often quite withdrawn people, more content with their own thoughts and fleeting obsessions than engaging in a conversation with adults, even those they like.

Rohmerathon: A Good Marriage, by Scott Nye

6 Oct


The second in Eric Rohmer’s “cycle” of Comedies and Proverbs, A Good Marriage (1982) begins with the question, “Can any of us refrain from building castles in Spain?” For Sabine (Béatrice Romand), her castle is marriage. Fed up with her married boyfriend, she dumps him and declares she is soon to wed. To whom, she does not know. But she is a Rohmer protagonist and has a very definite idea, which comes more or less complete in the form of her best friend’s cousin, Edmond (André Dussolier), a thirtysomething lawyer with good manners, social standing, looks, and income. He’s terrific husband material. Unfortunately for Sabine, he knows it.


Rohmerathon: The Aviator’s Wife, by Scott Nye

17 Aug


Oh, what a difference a pen can make…

François (Phillipe Marlaud) has several problems before him – he’s working a dull job at night so he can attend a few classes by day, all of which prevents him from seeing his girlfriend, Anne (Marie Rivière), who’s five years his senior and is mostly using him as a rebound from her affair with a married pilot. He’s not nearly getting out what he’s putting in, but he’s too young and plain to feel anything but lucky that she’s even giving him the time of day. For now, he’s just trying to let her know that he’s arranged for a plumber to come look at her bathroom (another gesture she will barely acknowledge). He can’t call her at work and doesn’t think she’s home, so he tries to leave a note, but his pen’s dried. He storms off, and in comes a well-dressed older man, who successfully leaves a note with the it-turns-out-simply-asleep Anne, who hears him shuffle it under her door and bolts to greet him.


Rohmerathon: The Marquise of O / Perceval le Gallois, by Scott Nye

29 Jul


I hadn’t intended to take such a long break in this series, but as the next film up – The Marquise of O (1976) – left me thoroughly befuddled, I had hoped the following film – Perceval le Gallois (1978) – might clarify it somewhat. However, at 140 minutes, it was a tough proposition for these many, busy months. I am happy to say, however, that the latter did help illuminate the achievements of the former, both of which are wildly outside what we might come to expect from Rohmer’s typical milieu in terms of time and place, but which are really quite singular and remarkable in their own way. Auteurism provides a way to see less-obvious aspects of one film by how they’re more pronounced in another, but it also becomes something of a trap – when films don’t immediately give us “that Eric Rohmer feeling”, they somehow become less desirable. Where once we herald an artist for their distinctiveness, we soon pigeonhole them into extending no further. “We,” in this case, being “I.”


Rohmerathon: Love in the Afternoon, by Scott Nye

11 Mar


In Claire’s Knee, Rohmer expanded the general “a committed man is tempted to stray” template that guides the Moral Tales from a single woman catching a man’s eye to three women, recognizing that, once shaken, a man will look just about anywhere for an opportunity to satisfy himself. Right off the bat, Love in the Afternoon takes that even further, arguably to its natural conclusion. Frédéric (Bernard Verley), a young lawyer in a small firm, is living the contented dream, with a wife, Hélène (Françoise Verley, Bernard’s wife), a daughter, and a son on the way. But he’s restless, desperate for something to break the routine and reinvigorate his sense of self. In voiceover, he asks of his wife, “Why, among all possible beauties, was it her beauty that struck me?” While gazing uncomfortably at a woman on the train, he notes, “Since my marriage, I find all women attractive.” He sits in a cafe, watching women pass by, imagining a supernatural power that would compel them – any of them, all of them – to have sex with him. The Moral Tales protagonists get creepier as the series goes on (with the understanding that My Night at Maud’s, produced fourth, is the third), and Frédéric is as skeezy as they come.


Rohmerathon: Claire’s Knee, by Scott Nye

17 Feb


So far in this series, I’ve yet to touch on the importance of career in Rohmer’s films, but then it’s only the sort of thing that starts to make sense in retrospect. His protagonists in Bakery Girl and Suzanne’s Career were students (of law and pharmacy, respectively), and behave in turn with a lack of mastery over their domains. La Collectionneuse’s Adrien is an optometrist, positing himself to his intended sexual conquest in physical and aesthetic turns (which also ties into his hobby, and potential future profession, as an art dealer). The unnamed protagonist of My Night at Maud’s is an engineer attempting to mathematically arrange the ideal life for himself. In Claire’s Knee, Jerôme (Jean-Claude Brialy) is a diplomat. And he will very much take a diplomat’s approach to love over the course of the film, distancing himself from its emotional turmoil and proceeding cautiously towards any suggestion of impropriety.


Rohmerathon: My Night at Maud’s, by Scott Nye

3 Feb


My Night at Maud’s, released in 1969 in France and 1970 in America, was Eric Rohmer’s true crossover hit. Not only his first film to be released in this country, it achieved such success in the art houses that it crossed over to mainstream theaters as well. It became something of a reference among certain chic circles, and, even as the European cinema boom was fading, one of its most instantly-recognizable titles. Given that “European” translated quickly to “sexy,” just hearing the words “My Night at Maud’s” conjures up endless possibilities. Maud must be some kind of woman, for the protagonist to remember that night in conjunction with her name, and the singular “night” suggests a certain volatility, a sole outing not be repeated. Did they fight? Was one of them visiting town only briefly, or about to leave for good? Obviously there’d be nudity, maybe even some sex; why else would you spend the night? And who is “me” anyway? What’d he do to get a night with Maud? Who is this Maud?


Rohmerathon: La collectionneuse, by Scott Nye

21 Dec


From the very first frames, we’re in uncharted territory for Rohmer. In full color, a young bikini-clad girl walks along a beach. The sun is shining, the waves lap upon the shore. There is no voiceover, and the sounds – the waves, her feet along the ground, a stray seagull – seem attained at the moment of the images. She pauses, posing somewhat for us, Rohmer’s camera observing her face, her stomach, her back, her knees, her collarbone; it gazes up and down her body, pausing briefly on her chest. The title card informs us this is Haydée (Haydée Politoff), but we’ll not really know much about her for a little while longer. Even then, this dissociative introduction to her is instructive, as we run up against limitations of perception, perspective, and attention in trying to get to know her.


Rohmerathon: Suzanne’s Career, by Scott Nye

11 Dec


As with The Bakery Girl of Monceau, the 54-minute Suzanne’s Career finds a young man who has committed himself to one woman suddenly involved and obsessed with another. Bertrand (Philippe Beuzen) is a rather shy sort of fellow, having not summoned the courage to properly ask out Sophie (Diane Wilkinson), despite encouragement from his womanizing friend Guillaume (Christian Charrière). Like most young men in his position, Bertrand both envies and slightly detests his more romantically successful friend, passing that disdain onto whatever latest conquest falls for the latter’s gamesmanship. The lady in question, when we meet them, is Suzanne (Catherine Sée), an office worker attending night classes at the Sorbonne to train as an interpreter.


Rohmerathon: The Bakery Girl of Monceau, by Scott Nye

27 Nov


So here we are, at the start of one of the truly great film sagas ever crafted. After spending so long with Rohmer’s work in the 1950s, and seeing how often his work went unseen or unfinished, the audacity of his gambit with The Bakery Girl of Monceau is all the more impressive. It’s not that there would be mobs coming after him if he didn’t follow up on the promise established by the title card “Six Moral Tales,” and then almost a chapter mark “1” above the film’s title. But one wonders if he worried about getting away with it.