Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Rohmer’s A Tale of Winter
is the second installment of Éric Rohmer’s cinematic quartet thematically
linked by the four seasons and the closest he came to producing a Christmas
movie. The year-end holidays will indeed be celebrated and a visit to church
will yield tremendous spiritual comfort. Nonetheless, interpersonal
relationships remain as tricky as ever in Rohmer’s A Tale of Winter (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.
this tale begins at the end of summer—and what a lovely summer it was. While on
holiday, Félicie fell madly in love with Charles, an itinerant but highly trained
chef. After weeks of gamboling, they parted at the train station, promising to
reconnect soon. When five years pass in a flash, it is clear that did not
happen. However, it is not his fault. Félicie inadvertently scrawled out the
wrong address, as she sometimes does.
he had no permanent information, their ties were severed, leaving her to raise
the daughter he never knew of on her own. Yet, she clings to the romantic
notion fate will somehow reunite them, just as she resolves to settle down with
Maxence, her boss at the hair salon. That leaves tragically intellectual Loïc
as the odd man out in her life, at least until she decides cohabitating with
Maxence is not working out as she hoped, which takes about a day.
films very definitely serve as time capsules, reflecting the peculiar pressures
of love or something close to it at the time each was produced. While Winter’s exact circumstances seem quaint
in era of e-mail, pining for the one that got away will never be an obsolete
phenomenon and Rohmer fully captures the feeling. Although he is the missing
man, Charles presence (or rather its lack) is tangibly felt throughout the
Rohmer is the sort of filmmaker audiences might very well hate if they only see
one of his films, but if they binge on three or four, they will start to love
them all. The aesthetics of their workaday visuals, deceptively simple narratives,
and dialogue that is both realistic yet heavy in meaning takes some getting
used to. In all honesty, Richard Misek’s docu-essay Rohmer in Paris is quite helpful developing one’s Rohmer sea legs,
clueing viewers into Rohmerisms such as characters’ constant perambulating and
his obsessive marking of the passage of days. Eventually though, the honesty of
his films and the apparent effortlessness of his auteurism will just click open
the lock in your head.
the most part, Winter is good as most
of Rohmer’s oeuvre, but a scene in which Félicie visits a local church rather
than return to the impatient Maxence and her subsequent description of the
resulting epiphany boost it to a higher level. It really demonstrates how
Rohmer could lower the boom without anyone seeing it coming.
Félicie, Charlotte Véry rises to the occasion of her big, character-plumbing
scenes, but she often feels miscast, which is a slight problem considering she
is on-screen nearly every second. Félicie is supposed to be a stunner, prone to
impulsiveness, yet still easily capable of juggling multiple men. However, Véry
has a somewhat modest screen presence.
she still comes across real enough in the moment, even if we can’t quite buy
into her as a pseudo-femme fatale. In contrast, Frédéric van den Driessche
perfectly embodies the dashing Charles, while Hervé Furic plays the unassuming
Loïc as a complicated, fully dimensional person, bookish though he might be. He
keeps the film emotionally grounded and selflessly facilitates the big themes
that ultimately emerge.
is a quintessentially Rohmeresque film in that
it leaves viewers feeling they have eavesdropped on someone else’s life and
maybe gleaned a few lessons from the experience. Arguably, it takes some wild
turns down the stretch, but Rohmer makes them look logical and matter-of-fact.
Recommended for those who appreciate smart and mature drama, A Tale of Winter opens this Friday
(12/19) in New York, at the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center.
Labels: Eric Rohmer, French Cinema