A cinephilic confession: I have never been able to warm to Eric Rohmer. My friends have always been dumbfounded by that fact, but it's something I just can't shake. I picked up a second-hand copy of Conte d'été (A Summer's Tale) for the quiz, a film I hadn't seen since its theatrical release in the late 90s. As I watched it again, I found myself experiencing the same sense of frustration with his characters that I get every time I watch one of his films. He's a wonderful director of actors, but I find his dialog so clinical and cold. The bulk of the first forty-five minutes of A Summer's Tale consists of a dialectic on friendship, relationships, and love between Melvil Poupard and Amanda Langlet (pictured in last week's quiz) that, while intellectually satisfying, is so far removed from how I imagine two flirty twenty-somethings would talk while taking walks in the French countryside. (Dare I utter the word pretentious?) It's not that I crave realism -- it's a film after all -- but perhaps this is taking it too far in the opposite direction?
The argument I hear most often is, "But how can you love the films of Hong Sang-soo and not like Rohmer?" The quick and dirty answer (which I should probably expound on in a separate post) is this: Hong's characters are continually exposing their all-too-human traits -- weakness, denial, jealousy, insecurity, etc. They get drunk and make asses of themselves. They lie to themselves and each other to get what they want. Rohmer's characters, while beautiful to look at, seem more like vessels for Rohmer's personal philosophy than an actual attempt at sculpting characters.
Before the hate mails commence, let me say that I'm not proud of this position. I want to love Rohmer, and perhaps one day I'll see the light. Or maybe I just need to meet a 25 year-old ethnologist who also happens to work as a waitress in a crêperie. Until then, I remain a shamed philistine.
Now that the IFP is over, I can focus most of my energy on the New York Film Festival press screenings. I've been impressed with all but one film (the painfully unsubtle mess that is Afterschool) and hope to post several more reviews in the coming days.
This week: not what usually comes to mind when you think of a French postcard. (Ooh la la!) This one's too easy, I'm afraid. Name the film. Submit your answers to this address. Good luck!