Written by: Goodtime Charlie, Special to CC2K
La Collectionneuse (1967)—His first masterpiece. About a man-eating young woman who has no desire to eat the one man who doesn’t want her to eat him, and how it eventually drives this man insane with desire. As soon as he works his way in, to finally have a shot at her, he suddenly has yet another change of heart and abandons her on the side of the road. She moves on without skipping a beat.
Claire’s Knee (1971)—The most hilarious of all Rohmer’s protagonists–the hair, the beard, the wardrobe, the fact that he only travels by motorboat…he at once fascinates and repels. This wannabe-Romeo fancies himself a ladies man and fails to realize that by the time he decides a woman is worthy of his romantic/lustful attentions, it is too late–she has already seen him for who he really is and brushes him off without second thought, in favor of a much-less intelligent, but much-more confident and attractive man. Funny, because the man gets exactly what he deserves, especially in light of his earlier crowing, but there is also an air of tragedy about it; he garners our sympathy as he tries to maintain his pride in the face of defeat. This is the story of a patently unhappy man who would have no problem with women if he would simply stop thinking so much and avoid immediately placing himself high above the beautiful, intelligent women he meets.
The Aviator’s Wife (1981)—-Worst title ever, great movie. Rohmer’s version of Woody Allen’s Manhattan, or so it seems. Although still sumptuous and full of beautifully lingering shots, this film moves at a much more rapid clip than Rohmer’s earlier work. It seems like he was trying to modernize, to adapt to the marketplace–and it works. It is the story of one man, who loves a woman who takes his love for granted, and meets another, much younger woman who seems a much better match. Once again, choice enters into the mix; should he chase this young woman? Or should he resume his quest to conquer his somewhat-cold existing lover? And what is the deal with her other man? Will she choose the pilot over our hero? A charming dissection of love that turns into somewhat of a detective story. One of the sexiest woman-in-her-underwear-during- a-long-emotional-scene scenes ever committed to celluloid. And for all you ladies out there…there’s a pilot, too!
The Green Ray (aka Summer) (1986)—-A pitch-perfect exploration of the trials and tribulations of a beautiful woman who wishes she were ugly, so that men wouldn’t just want her for sex and she could live her life like a normal, sociable human being. A tour-de-force performance by Marie Riviere (who also co-wrote, along with Rohmer), who expands on her complicated character introduced in The Aviators Wife. Although her character has a different name in this one, the two roles have so much in common that it is not hard to view Delphine as Anne two years down the road. Rohmer displays Delphine’s quirks in much the same loving way that Allen displays Annie Hall’s; even though everyone around her thinks she is weird and unnecessarily reclusive, the audience is on her side at every turn. Her biggest problem is that nobody wants to actually listen to what she has to say; they only want to hear themselves speak and deliver long tirades full of useless advice. Delphine is a vegetarian and nature-lover–so much so that ‘nature’ is fully a character in this movie, and the sound design during this character’s biggest scene is particularly stunning. The movie has a wonderful pace to it–a step back from that of The Aviator’s Wife, but perfect for its subject
A Summer’s Tale (1996)—A movie made in 1996 that looks like it is from 1976, a tape recorder the only noticeable inconsistency. The story centers on a young man who juggles three women at a beach resort in northern France. One is unattainable, but toys with him; another wants all of him or none of him; the third truly loves him, but remains his friend in order to see whether or not he will pursue her–luckily for him, all are beautiful. As is the case in a Rohmer movie, Gaspard ends up alone, leaving town to purchase an 8-track recording system to avoid a choice he will regret no matter his decision. It is an interesting, lush 100-minute treatise on romantic indecision, and ranks right up there with Rohmer’s best; a true return to form.
The Marquis of O (1976)—-After a shockingly-bad opening, this film recovers well and, in the end, impresses. The hokeyness of this clearly-low-budget period piece is forgotten after the first five or ten minutes and the emotionally-rich story quickly moves to the forefront. Bruno Ganz, whom I loved for his subtle, brilliant performance in The American Friend (Wim Wenders, 1977), was equally as impressive here, in his portrayal of ‘The Count.’ The staid world of the 18th-century aristocracy seems laughable, though certainly faithful to history, and the drama that unfolds within that world is well-painted by Rohmer. My favorite moment? When the Marquis sulks, alone, in her vast, beautiful, many-servant-staffed country estate, and we are supposed to feel sorry for her; yes, her parents threw her out, but, come on–she isn’t exactly out on her ass!
Boyfriends and Girlfriends (1987)—-Eric Rohmer as a woman, but adapting the character well to the other gender. She is very smart, lonely, horny, but awkward and reserved. She must choose between two men who are both good-looking, but one of them is a handsome ladies-man she can’t talk to, and the other is an intelligent, athletic gentleman who would make the much better choice–but dates her beautiful, vapid new best friend…