professional pseudonym was derived from Sax Rohmer, but Éric Rohmer is not
known for genre pictures. Aside from the occasional well regarded period piece,
he remains most celebrated for work within the comedy of manners rubric and his
intimately observed relationship dramas. This hardly seems the stuff to inspire
obsessive analysis in the tradition of Room 237, but Richard Misek proves the Rohmer canon rewards such close critical
scrutiny in his docu-essay Rohmer in
has its American premiere this Saturday as part of the Museum of the Moving
Image’s annual First Look.
epicenter of Misek’s film is the Tim Hotel in Paris. It was there the potentially adulterous
lovers in Rohmer’s Rendezvous in Paris were
to have their assignation, only to spy their respective spouses arriving together
on a similar mission. As fate would
dictate, Misek was also at the Tim Hotel that day and inadvertently found his
way into a few frames of Rohmer’s film.
Realizing his presence in Rendezvous
years after the fact, Misek began binge viewing Rohmer’s filmography.
commonalities are immediately apparent. Rohmer’s
characters are largely Parisians, either in Paris proper or on holiday in the
countryside. Chance meetings are commonplace
and everybody walks incessantly. As a
result, Rohmer’s films document the development of modern Paris, particularly
his beloved Left Bank. Considered collectively,
his work becomes something of a Möbius strip of characters in motion, crossing
over but not interacting with their counterparts from other films.
edited by Misek, RIP largely (but not
quite entirely) consists of clips from Rohmer films that vividly illustrate his
points. While Misek’s commentary is clearly informed by Post-Structuralist
critical theory, he never loses sight of the exquisite human dimension to
Rohmer’s film. Indeed, he is absolutely brimming over with compassion for the
enigmatic subject of Rohmer’s short documentary Nadja in Paris.
RIP probably sounds
like indulgent film geekery and perhaps it is, but it is also unfailingly
pleasant, conscientiously respectful of Rohmer (and the legacy of classic film
in general), and weirdly touching. Misek
even wraps things up in a Rohmer-esque ending, which is quite a trick for
There is no getting around RIP’s scholarly roots, but it is still easily accessible to anyone
interested in Eric Rohmer. It might not hold mass market appeal, but it is a
very good film. Most importantly, Misek leaves viewers wanting to re/watch
Rohmer’s remarkably accomplished oeuvre, which is always the acid test for a
film like this. It also happens to be
relatively concise (under seventy minutes), so MoMI will screen it with The Bakery Girl of Monceau, one of
Rohmer’s shorts discussed in detail during RIP.
Recommended rather enthusiastically to
Rohmer fans and postmodernist film students, Rohmer in Paris screens this Saturday (1/11) as part of MoMI’s
First Look in Astoria, Queens.
Labels: Documentary, Eric Rohmer, First Look '14