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A Summer’s Tale: Rohmer at the Beach
might be summer, but Eric Rohmer characters never get a vacation from their personality
hang-ups. Strangely, they are still good company, thanks to the auteur’s
feather-light touch. Despite its place in one of Rohmer’s great thematic film
series, the Tales of the Four Seasons quartet,
as well as young cast predominantly dressed for the beach, A Summer’s Tale (trailer here) is only now
getting a proper American theatrical release, when it opens this Friday in New
is a dedicated musician, who has recently completed a master’s degree in
mathematics, but he is not very smart when it comes to women. He has come to
Dinard in Brittany for a short holiday before his first adult job commences, in
hopes his pseudo-girlfriend Léna will join him there. Much to his frustration,
but not necessarily his surprise, she has flaked on him. In spite of his
general mopiness, an attractive ethnology student waitressing in her aunt’s café
takes a liking to Gaspard. Also separated from her lover, Margot assures
Gaspard there will no possibility of romance between them, but she encourages
him to pursue Solène, a casual acquaintance of hers.
a bit of prodding, Gaspard successfully acts on her advice. Yet, just as his
fling with Solène threatens to get serious, Léna resurfaces. Will he sabotage his
flawed romance of the moment for an even more problematic relationship from the
past, while taking for granted all the chemistry we can plainly see in his
platonic friendship with Margot? It puts the socially awkward Gaspard in quite
a quandary, but Margot is openly dismissive of his self-centered confusion.
viewers will not be very impressed by Gaspard’s whiny vacillations either, but
Amanda Langlet’s Margot is a different story. It is worth enduring his neurotic
dithering, so we can hear her undercut him. Formerly the young star of Rohmer’s
Pauline at the Beach, in thirteen
years Amanda Langlet had matured into a charismatic young woman, whose charm
and intelligent presence consistently elevates Summer. It is strange that she has been so rarely seen by
international cineastes outside Rohmer films, yet Melvil Poupaud’s star
continued to rise after his gawky turn as Gaspard.
Nolin is not exactly a household name either, but viewers can well understand
why Gaspard has such a hard time getting over her. As is usually the case for
Rohmer’s screenplays, Summer is a
talky film, but the primary cast makes his often brutally honest dialogue sound
natural and spontaneous. It is very Rohmeresque, even though it is not set in
his familiar Paris. In fact, he consciously anchors Summer along the Brittany coast, capitalizing on the local color
and sea shanties.
a considerate host, Rohmer carefully marks the passing of each day leading up
to Gaspard’s scheduled departure and deliberately identifies the relevant landmarks
for the audience. Even after the HD restoration, Summer never dazzles visually, but it still makes Dinard look like
a lovely place to visit.
There are profundities to be found amongst Summer’s prosaic exchanges. It can be
pointed at times, but it is never a rude or crass viewing experience. Sharply
observed but scrupulously forgiving of human foibles, it is a classic example of the Rohmer style. Highly recommended for
Francophiles and those who appreciate intimate chamber comedy-dramas, A Summer’s Tale (finally) opens this
Friday (6/20) in New York at the Lincoln Plaza Cinema.
Labels: Eric Rohmer, French Cinema