4 aventures de Reinette et Mirabelle (1987)

26 05 2011

I’m sure many of my followers/reading (if there are any) are more than familiar with my disdain for Eric Rohmer. While calling his films unwatchable would be a bit too dramatic, there is something about his work that always has and always will irk me. At least that’s what I gathered from the handful of films I’ve seen from him, the most notable being My Night at Maud’s, but this is a bit different. It’s not like he’s going in a completely different direction either. This is still a movie with a lot of talking in this movie and it still displays everything I generally dislike about Rohmer’s style of filmmaking. For whatever reason, though, it hits a chord that his other films by pass.

In an almost ironic occurrence, Rohmer’s best looking movie ends up being an extremely grainy one. It kind of helps support the film’s rather effortless pace and almost whimsical tone. The events that happen in the movie are all rather frivolous in a way and, at the risk of sounding cheap, act as something of a launching point for discussions between the two characters. This is how a lot of Rohmer’s films work, but here it doesn’t seem so stilted. Credit should go to Joëlle Miquel and Jessica Forde who are nothing but a joy to watch. Even when it seems like the film is shoving their difference down one’s throat (one lives in the country, one lives in the city!) they still have a very natural tone to their conversations. Their relationship seems more like something out of a Jacques Rivette film than another Rohmer venture.

Also, for as enjoyable as this film is as just a snapshot of a friendship, it actually looks good. Sure, as I said earlier, it’s grainy as all hell, but this is one of few times it seems like Rohmer placed some emphasis on the visuals. Surely, his shot/reverse shot technique is nothing if not conventional, but he does manage to capture something special from time to time. Certainly nothing earth-shattering, unless you measure it by his own standards. Maybe it’s something as simple as not being so visually inept, but it seems like the dialogue here is much tighter here than it is in any other Rohmer film. Sure, it trails off from time to time (the conversation about morals following the shoplifting incident is particularly eye-rolling) but it never really separates itself from being more than just a couple of incidents.

Maybe a re-evaluation of Rohmer is due on my part (don’t hold your breath, fans) but it definitely seems like he was able here to make a film that is undeniably Rohmer-esque but also accessible to those outside of his taste in cinema. It’s a simple movie, but a very good one and considering how complicated Rohmer likes to make things, that’s quite the accomplishment. I couldn’t care less about the political or economical circumstances of the friendship like I am probably suppose to, but thankfully Rohmer makes the friendship playful and entertaining enough to be enjoyed on a more literal level.

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3 responses

27 05 2011
Ed Howard

I’m glad you took a look at this one. This is one of my favorite under-appreciated Rohmers, a film that even most Rohmer fans haven’t seen, which is a big shame. As you say, it recalls the work of Rivette in its playful, close female friendship, and as a result I think of it as a more grounded variation on *Celine & Julie Go Boating*. But of course there’s also much that is typically Rohmer-esque about it, notably the emphasis on dialogue, the importance of living spaces and their decor, the subtle use of color. I think you’re WAY off-base in saying that Rohmer usually doesn’t care about visuals – nothing could be further from the truth, and that old chestnut needs to be put to rest along with the one about “watching paint dry” – but I’m glad you do appreciate the visuals of this unassumingly lovely film.

It’s odd that you pick this one out as being different from his usual style, though, because I really don’t see it: the visual style here is very typically Rohmer-esque. His visuals aren’t flashy, true, which leads some people to dismiss him as having no style or not caring about the way his films look, which is nonsense. But his films, in their subtle way, are absolutely gorgeous – he has a real feel for the natural world and for the ways in which people shape their own living spaces. He is also one of the best visual interpreters of seasonal atmosphere, both explicitly in the Four Seasons films he made late in his career, and implicitly in so many of his other films, where the season in which a story takes place shapes the look and feel of the film.

22 07 2011
erik huber

Agreed! Anyone who caught the restored print of “Summer” (Rayon Vert) at Film Forum knows how deliberate and lovely his use of color is, but what do you all think he’s up to, talky director that he is, celebrating silence?

2 06 2011
Jake Savage

Thanks for the feedback, Ed.

I’ve been thinking of giving Rohmer a second chance for awhile now. I guess I can kind of see a connection to Ozu throughout some of this, but my problem with Rohmer had always been people being far too confident/articulate in their dialogue. It seemed a lot less important here, especially since it was sort of a Rivette-esque. I guess that explains why the visuals stood out more too.

The Four Seasons films look interesting, but I think I have The Green Ray planned next.

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