Saturday, April 21, 2007

autumn tale (rohmer, 1998)

A gorgeous film, whose palette recalls Ozu's Late Autumn. It had me wondering if Rohmer (who's only had two films released here since this one: The Lady and the Duke and Triple Agent) wasn't getting younger as he seemed to approach eighty. The "situations" are alarmingly riddled with "audience friendly" codes - as if we could forget that Rohmer is just about the audience-friendliest director who ever lived - while the "feel" is unquestionably Rohmer. The minds of the characters are reactive; they respond to situations instead of creating them, and the movie is half over before Rohmer introduces the most crucial figure, leaving everyone else stranded. The engine that sustains the film is Rohmer's writing: He's famous for his "talk" but what really makes his characters function the way they do is their ability to listen.

Is this Rohmer's most successful US release? I wouldn't be surprised: it's twice as smart as what we're accustomed to, here, but half as smart as, let's say for example, A Good Marriage, and not nearly as atmospheric (not for lack of trying) as The Green Ray or A Summer's Tale or A Tale of Springtime, just to name a few post-Perceval titles.

Near the three-quarter mark, Magali erupts and threatens to destroy everything around her: as a result, although the film continues and ends happily, the pieces don't fit back together again. There's a disconnect. Everything following her tantrum is a let-down - it's in a different film. Plus there's another component that's completely fascinating, even moving, but left maddeningly unresolved: Gerald's social awkwardness and his attraction to Isabelle. Would that Rohmer had built what could be his last "talk-fest" on different foundations!!

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