Éric Rohmer: 1920—2010
Arriving after some twelve years’ worth of short films and barely-released features, the contes moraux helped to establish Rohmer as an art house favorite in America in the 1960s and 70s. Ma nuit chez Maud (My Night at Maud’s, 1969) and Le genou de Claire (Claire’s Knee, 1970) had long, healthy runs. Furthermore, they epitomized Rohmer’s formula, which had a lot to do with sex, intellectualism, politics, lust and desire, power games and role play, boredom and scheming. And lovely, slender young women.
All of it was fashioned in a deceptively simple style, making you take notice on the occasions when he hit bull’s eye: Le genou de Claire, L'amour l'après-midi, Le rayon vert (in America as Summer, 1986), Conte d'hiver (A Winter’s Tale, 1992), and Conte d'automne (Autumn Tale, 1998) are exquisite, with Marie Rivière (a longtime member of Rohmer’s stock company) painfully poignant in Le rayon vert. She, like several other of his actors, brought forth the human comedy and drama of scripts laced with an acerbic wit and keen understanding of female-male relationships. The endless chit chat in his films could drive some people crazy, but it was generally a ruse, a way for characters to avoid being honest with themselves, a pet theme that made Rohmer’s work so unique.
Above: Rohmer’s analysis of Haydée Politoff’s physique in La collectionneuse (1967)