I didn’t expect this from the most naturalistic of the French new wavers. It’s a period musical adaptation of an epic poem – that part seems up Rohmer’s alley – but he uses spare, symbolic sets (anticipating the digital backdrops of The Lady and the Duke) and has the actors read their character’s dialogue and accompanying narration, speaking along with their actions so as not to break up the verses. The source poem is incomplete, so the story trails off at the end, but not before a momentum-killing passion play with our lead character as Jesus on the cross. It’s quirky and unique, and I liked the story somewhat, but didn’t warm up to the simple lead character or the renaissance music. As far as French movies set in weirdly artificial castles starring Andre Dussolier go, I prefer La Vie est un roman.

Young Andre Dussolier with Perceval:

Perceval (Fabrice Luchini, who’d recently starred in Immoral Tales) takes advice given him VERY seriously, listening first to his mother, then a “worthy man” he meets on his travels. But he is dumb as hell, and sometimes misinterprets the intent of the advice, firstly when he barges into a knight’s tent, steals some food and molests the woman inside. I’m not sure what advice led to that. Later he’s told that it’s better to stay silent than say stupid stuff, so in the enchanted castle of the Fisher King, he doesn’t ask about the miraculous bleeding spear and glowing bowl he sees, and so is cursed for his lack of humility, and spends five years wandering godlessly through the wilderness while his mother dies alone back home. As with many ancient texts, the story takes logical leaps that I don’t follow.

Magic woman with awesome hair who delivers the Fisher King curse:

Perceval Christ:

Elsewhere, Perceval falls for a woman named Blanchefleur (Arielle Dombasle, who made an impression as the goofy wheelchair woman in La Belle Captive), defends her castle and promises to marry her. He gets respect from King Arthur and starts sending his defeated enemies to the King for punishment instead of finishing them off. Then the movie leaves Perceval for a long while, following Arthurian knight Gawain (Dussolier) on a quest to clear his name from some murderous accusation, with a stop on the way to win a jousting contest on behalf of a rich girl. I love that the same choir of musical servants (including Pascale Ogier of Le Pont du Nord, in her first role) appears in every location. I also love the look of the film, and a weird scene involving cartoon geese.

There’s Pascale on the right:

Perceval with Blanchefleur:

Rosenbaum:

a medieval musical that feels a bit like a western … The merit of Rohmer’s realism in Perceval is that it brings something otherwise dead and forgotten to life – not because Rohmer’s imagination is especially rich but because he sees no alternative to his literalism, even if it makes some audiences laugh in disbelief.

Astree loves Celadon and vice versa, with the kind of suicide-pact love that mainly exists among 17-year-olds in tragi-romantic plays. His parents don’t approve so the young lovers make a public show of dating other people… but Astree believes the show, feels betrayed and tells Celadon to piss off, so he goes and drowns himself in the river. Not quite dead, he’s rescued by nymph Galathée and her gang. Gal wants hunky Cel for herself but he escapes and hides away in the forest, eating berries, refusing to approach his beloved because, after all, she ordered him away. Meanwhile, Astree and Cel’s brother alternate (“he must be dead!” “he must be alive!”).

I guess I see the Rohmer moral theme at work here. Cel loves his girl so he must remain faithful to her and do as she says, staying away even if she doesn’t know he’s alive. But as Jimmy said, breaking into a giggling fit after hearing Celadon echo his simple emotions for the thousandth time, “he’s SO dumb!” It’s hard to disagree… they are all so dumb, and the movie is so straightforward and simple that it gets frustrating. Some nice imagery though, I thought (Katy said it looked made-for-public-television). Best not to get into the ending, in which Celadon pretends (not convincingly) to be a girl in order to get closer to his beloved.

Astree is Stephanie Crayencour and Celadon is Andy Gillet, neither of whom have shown up elsewhere yet. Jocelyn Quivrin who played Celadon’s brother died in a car crash two months ago. Nominated for the golden lion in Venice along with six movies I’ve loved (and also Sukiyaki Western Django) but they all lost to Lust, Caution, which I thought didn’t get good reviews.

M.J. Anderson:

Adapting Honoré d’Urfé’s novel of 5th century Gaul life, The Romance of Astree and Celadon claims to reproduce less the period depicted than its 17th century readers’ imagination of the earlier period. Commensurate with this goal, the director features canvases painted in the seventeenth century, a castle built well after the novel’s setting and importantly a grafting of the Christian faith onto the Druid-themed source material.

“You’ll be your own downfall.”

The Lady of the title is Grace Elliott, a Brit in France during the 1789-93 French Revolution. Actually the French title is L’anglaise et la duc but Grace is Scottish, claiming English nationality for simplicity when it’s suddenly very dangerous to be a French aristocrat in France. The movie’s intertitles and much dialogue are taken directly from her diaries.

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The Duke is one of my favorite Jean-Pierre Jeunet actors, but I didn’t recognize anyone else. Star Lucy Russell has failed to break into the Hollywood mainstream (landing such roles as “female restaurant guest” and “classy shopper #3” in recent big films). Ach, I missed Alain Libolt (Renaud in Out 1) as the Duke of Biron.

Renaud plus 30 years:
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Grace is pure aristocracy, the very target of the revolution, and her sympathies lie with her friends whom she sees being rounded up and killed by the brutish masses. Steadfast in her devotions (though lying to stay alive), she’s contrasted with her friend the Duke, who changes with the times and ends up voting for the execution of the king. Plays like one of Rohmer’s Moral Tales only with more action, more heads on stakes, and more awesome digital backdrops of period Paris standing in for the usual stifling production design and avoidance of outdoor shots (except by filmmakers with Scorsese-budgets). Slant, in fact, called it an “economical antidote to the bloated costume drama.” Grace tries to negotiate the changing world without compromising her belief in the class system, while the Duke either adapts his morals or never had any to begin with. The main thing this movie has over the other Rohmers I’ve seen is historical interest… I delighted in the details of the revolution, about which I know very little. I thought the movie rather anti-revolution, which seems shockingly out of fashion, and one “Grunes” confirms that this was a problem:

Rohmer pitches the action from Elliott’s perspective, with which his own Roman Catholic penchant for order prompts him to identify—hence, the controversy the film engendered in France. Thus the street mobs are unwashed, grisly, barbaric, obscene; poor Louis XVI!

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It’s hard to know what to make of the movie’s politics. There’s also a long scene where she successfully hides a Marquis from the police. We don’t get to know the guy very well, but he’s not made out as a man who deserves to die, so bravo, I guess. When Grace is finally arrested and held for two days for possession of a letter from an Englishman, the letter ironically turns out to praise the French revolution to the heavens. These examples and the duality in the title make it seem relatively even-handed, despite being adapted from Grace’s own horrified writings.

Duke Jean-Claude Dreyfus:
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Watched this the night the director died. It got mentions on decade-end lists, with some screenshots that got stuck in my head (like the one below, peering into a painting with a telescope), so I’d planned to watch it soon anyway. I didn’t hear much when it came out, probably because of the timing (sept-oct, 2001). Beaten out for its only two César nominations by Amelie and Brotherhood of the Wolf.

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NY Times:

The moral dilemmas that Grace and the Duke face are diagrammed, in Mr. Rohmer’s inimitable fashion, with equal measures of clarity and complexity. The director manages to evade both the stuffy antiquarianism and the pandering anachronism that subvert so many cinematic attempts at historical inquiry. His characters are neither costumed moderns, just like us only with better furniture, nor quaint curiosities whose odd customs we observe with smug condescension. They seem at once entirely real and utterly of their time. And the time itself feels not so much reconstructed as witnessed.

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I’ll close by outright stealing an entire blog post by from Glenn Kenny, only because I want to always be able to find this Rohmer quote.

My films, you say, are literary: The things I say could be said in a novel. Yes, but what do I say? My characters’ discourse is not necessarily my film’s discourse.

There is certainly literary material in my tales, a preestablished novelistic plot that could be developed in writing and that is, in fact, sometimes developed in the form of a commentary. But neither the text of these commentaries, nor that of my dialogues, is my film: Rather, they are things that I film, just like the landscapes, faces, behavior, and gestures. And if you say that speech is an impure element, I no longer agree with you. Like images, it is a part of the life I film.

What I say, I do not say with words. I do not say it with images, either, with all due respect to partisans of pure cinema, who would speak with images as a deaf-mute does with his hands. After all, I do not say, I show. I show people who move and speak. That is all I know how to do, but that is my true subject. The rest, I agree, is literature.
—From “Letter to a critic [concerning my Contes moraux]”

Fred has a decent life with his wife, who is expecting a second baby, when old friend (actually an old friend’s ex) Chloe resurfaces and they start meeting in the afternoons. Fred lunches with Chloe, then goes shopping with her, then kisses her, then sees her naked, then almost sleeps with her but runs back to his wife for a tearful finale.

Fred & Chloe:
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Progressions from the previous films:
– Fred is married with two kids, so stakes are higher
– We meet the wife and get to know her more than we’ve gotten to know the other “chosen girls”, again raising the stakes.
– a dream sequence wherein Fred meets the girls from the other movies on the street while wearing a magical crystal
– At the end, Rohmer beautifully shows us (below) Fred’s decision to cut it off with Chloe and return to his wife instead of having Fred explain it to us in voiceover.

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Felt self-conscious watching this with Katy, who didn’t like it. Overly-talky French films with protagonists who have crappy ideas about women should apparently be watched alone, cuz I felt fine watching the five other talky entries with cad protagonists in this series.

As Fred, Bernard Verley is the guy I just saw playing Jesus in The Milky Way (he’s very different here, and not just because he has no beard and is not playing Jesus). Fred has better hair and a better personality than any guy since My Night at Maud’s. Zouzou (Chloe) appeared in a 1977 Edgardo Cozarinsky revolution comedy with Dennis Hopper. Guy who plays Fred’s business partner Gerard was in Stolen Kisses and Bed & Board. Fred’s wife, unfortunately, was in nothing else of note.

Fred’s wife is def. more attractive than Chloe:
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“What Rohmer gets better than anybody else, I think, is the way in which we justify ourselves, the way we talk ourselves into such silly and demeaning but human interactions with people, that we can justify just about anything. He’s one of the great justifiers. He loves to watch these men squirm their way along through life.” – Neil LaBute, director of the Wicker Man remake. It’s actually a very nice interview, a ten minute appreciation of Rohmer’s cinema.

The famous shot:
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Fred with a dream-sequence girl… is that Haydée?
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also: Veronique and Her Dunce from 1958, before the Moral Tales. Shot by Charles Bitsch, who did Le Coup du berger and Paris nous appartient for Rivette. Veronique shows up to tutor a kid who isn’t too good at math or composition and likes to ask questions. Then she goes home. That’s really it! Not exactly The 400 Blows here, or even Le Coup du berger, but it’s a likeable little sketch. Veronique would return the next year in Charlotte et Veronique written by Rohmer and directed by Godard – it’s on the A Woman is a Woman DVD. As for this short, I liked the tile floor, and am glad they showed it so often.

Veronique before meeting her dunce:
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When the movie began, I immediately noticed Jean-Claude Brialy’s hair. Who is this guy? I’ve seen him in earlier films (Paris Belongs To Us, A Woman is a Woman and Le Beau Serge) and a later film (Phantom of Liberty) but I can’t remember him. I think he might be the guy on the right in my middle screenshot of Le Coup du berger but without the beard and the hair it is impossible to tell. That hair… so distracting. Laying on the couch, I alternated between taking in the luxurious outdoor camerawork and watching Brialy’s hair. The birds fought on me for the first ten minutes before Our Bird settled on the couch in front of my head and New Bird camped on my shoulder with his tail right in my eye. So I thought about the birds, and Brialy’s hair, and the sunlight in the film, then I realized that a half hour had passed and I still wasn’t paying attention to the dialogue.

Brialy & Laura:
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So maybe not the ideal screening of Claire’s Knee… or maybe it was! Either way, I got the feeling that I liked the previous two movies better, despite expectations that this would be the masterpiece of the Six Moral Tales. Seems like the Tales are wearing themselves thin. Guy in picturesque location with distant girlfriend flirts with young girls but ultimately stays with his girlfriend… it’s La Collectionneuse again.

Claire:
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This time the guy is bushy Brialy, spending the month before he gets married in his old home town (I think), possibly to sell the family home, though we never see him do anything productive. His co-conspirator (see also: Vidal in My Night at Maud’s) is an Italian writer with a distracting accent, Aurora. Brialy flirts first with big-haired 16-yr-old Laura, then with her (slightly older?) step-sister Claire, whose knee we don’t see until towards the end of the picture. Laura is happy to lightly play around and talk with Brialy but they both know there’s nothing serious, then he is briefly tempted by Claire, tries to break her up with her boyfriend, then comforts her when they are stranded in the rain together by rubbing the titular knee. He goes home to his fiancee, thinking himself a dark stranger who changed these two young girls’ lives, but Laura hardly seems to notice him in the last few days, and Claire is back with her boy two minutes after Brialy has left. Even if the rest of the story was nothing special, I liked this ending, which gives more of an inner life to the female characters than previous entries have done.

(R-L): Sad Claire, her knee, Brialy:
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Beautifully shot by master of light Nestor Almendros the same year he did Bed & Board and The Wild Child for Truffaut. Hardly any of the actors besides Brialy had been in any films before, but most would appear in later Rohmer films from time to time. This won best film from both the U.S. and French critics societies, but lost a best-foreign Golden Globe (with fellow loser The Conformist) to an Israeli movie that isn’t out on video (which itself lost the best-foreign Oscar to The Garden of Finzi-Continis).

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My (comparatively) negative feelings about this one extend to the DVD extras, too. First we’ve got a nothing TV interview with the cast, where we learn that Brialy has been Rohmer’s friend for a long time, and the girls somewhat enjoyed working on the film, and everyone is miffed that Rohmer won’t appear on the show himself. Then there’s The Curve by Edwige Shakti, a short based on a basic scenario by Rohmer. Shekti herself stars as the usually topless girlfriend of an art-obsessed young man. She challenges his remarks that he was drawn to her because she reminded him of different specific artworks. It’s a cute enough short, but its appeal lies more in watching the director’s breasts than in the uninteresting 30fps video work or the consciously Rohmer-talky dialogue.

The Curve:
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Made and released before My Night at Maud’s, but it’s part four of the Moral Tales. I made a moral decision to watch the films according to their numbering in the DVD box set, and not in the order they were made.

It’d be almost Antonioni-esque without the voiceover. Hardly anything actually happens, but Adrien always keeps us filled in on what he’s thinking. I considered disliking the movie for a while, a movie about idle rich young artists having self-conscious affairs, but it turns out Adrien and Haydée aren’t rich (only idle and leeching off their rich friend) and never manage to have an affair. I ended up liking it.

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Buff 30ish Adrien comes to the beach to take his “first vacation in ten years” prior to an art opening, hopes to sit around with buddy Daniel and do absolutely nothing, not even think (they read so they don’t have to think). 21-yr-old Haydée is also at the house sleeping with a different guy every night. We don’t get much insight into Daniel – he’s the third wheel here – but Adrien and Haydée are both trying to find themselves, define their own moral codes, playing off each other and never quite getting together. At the end, Adrien pulls a standard Moral Tales move. Chances are good that he’s got Haydée for the night, but he leaves her in the middle of the road, deciding that sleeping with her would be against his character, and books a flight for London to see the girl he’s with (briefly) at the start of the film.

Leisurely-paced movie, but never slow or dull. Differently structured than the other films, with a few-minute prologue for each character before the main section of the movie begins. Rohmer and his cameraman would be happy to just stare at Haydée all day – her entire prologue is shots of her barely-clad body. Apparently that’s what defines her character.

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Have I mentioned that it is in color? Guess that’s another good reason to watch it fourth instead of third. Nice, rich color, too. Much of the look is in the bleached grays and browns and blues of the beach and the plain interior of their villa, so what colors we get in clothing and city life and an antique vase all stand out. Adrien and Daniel wear some hilarious clothes throughout (see above). Must be a 60’s artist thing.

Adrien was Patrick Bauchau, had a smallish part in Suzanne’s Career, later in American stuff like The Rapture and Panic Room. Haydée was Haydée Politoff, immediately turned to Spanish and Italian horror movies, had a small part in Love in the Afternoon, and mostly quit acting after that. Daniel was Daniel Pommereulle, appeared in Godard’s Weekend the same year, then two by Philippe Garrel.

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from V. Canby’s NYT review:

Much of the comedy in La Collectionneuse, as in Rohmer’s later films, is provided by the otherwise aware hero’s elegant self-deceptions about his own motives, followed by his dimly seen perceptions of what could be another truth. In this context, it is a momentous event (and, comparatively speaking, momentously funny) when Adrien begins to have doubts about the affair of Haydée and Daniel. “I couldn’t be sure,” he tells himself with complete seriousness, “that their complicity was entirely for my benefit.”

There is a certain chilliness and lack of spontaneity to all of the performances, especially Bauchau’s, which, I suspect, has as much to do with the tiny scope of the film as to the actor’s talents. My Night at Maud’s and Claire’s Knee suggest living worlds outside the films’ rarefied milieus, whereas La Collectionneuse exists in splendid, arrogant isolation. Adrien is tiresome. Daniel is enigmatic, and Haydée is sweet, and great to look at, but, after a while, sadly commonplace.

A note of interest to local film buffs: the Seymour Hertzberg who is listed in the credits (he plays Sam, the American art collector whom Adrien solicits), is the nom d’écran of Eugene Archer, a former New York Times film reviewer who, I’m told, has absolutely no intention of acting again. He is an excellent reviewer.

“Seymour Hertzberg”:
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From P. Lopate’s Criterion essay:

Haydée is not the most articulate young woman, though she says just enough to cast doubt on the men’s interpretations. There will be other Rohmer films that take us deep into the psyches of women; this one does not, but it gives us a very daring, precise portrait of the misogynistic, entitled, self-loathing psyches of men. And unlike, say, most Woody Allen movies, it does not let the rationalizing male character off the hook. Rohmer explicitly warned us, in an interview: “You should never think of me as an apologist for my male character, even (or especially) when he is being his own apologist. On the contrary, the men in my films are not meant to be particularly sympathetic characters.”

From an appreciation in The Guardian:

Drama, for Rohmer, is made up of a number of frequently small incidents which culminate in an inevitable denouement. There are many kinds of film-making but Rohmer’s would be very difficult to beat within the confines of his chosen metier.

A Modern Coed, 1966

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“People used to say girls went to college only to land a husband. Though today’s coed might find a husband, she isn’t necessarily looking.”

Just a short doc to tell the world that there are female college students, and some of them even study science. Its main reason to exist today is to document mid-60’s Paris hairstyles. Narrated by Vidal from Maud’s.

Foreground: our coed. Background: a cat with a hat in a box.
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Rohmer on La Collectionneuse in 1977:
“It’s the only film I made that followed the era’s fashion. Audiences loved the new fashions, the long hair, the blue jeans. Then there was Haydée, whom audiences adored. Marcel Carné signed her for his next film right after that.”

He speaks proudly of a conversation scene in the 1976’s The Marquise of O, calling it “tiresome and static” but saying nobody else would have dared film it as written.

“This is a problem that concerns me. In the past, I was drawn by the way people spoke. I’m deeply interested in language. Currently, I find a kind of sloppiness has crept into the French language and I don’t like it very much. I like colloquial language, but today, especially as it’s used in intellectual circles, I find little of interest in it. … That said, I also believe characters in film should speak naturally. I’m getting around this currently by shooting films set in the past. When I return to contemporary films, I don’t know what my position will be. Perhaps by then language will have evolved further. Today’s spoken language is so extremely impoverished that it doesn’t inspire me. You find the same dialogue in every film now.”

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Jean-Louis is a Catholic engineer with an interest in mathematics and a dislike for Blaise Pascal (the mid-1600’s scientist and philosopher). JL meets up with old long-time-no-see friend Vidal, who takes him out dancing and then to visit Vidal’s friend Maud, a single mother, at her house on Christmas night. The section at Maud’s house must be at least a third of the film’s running time. Vidal is attracted to her, but she’ll have none of that. He gets drunk and finally walks home, Leaving JL to fend for himself. They talk about life, love, religion and Pascal, JL sleeps next to Maud but they only kiss once. The next day JL meets Franciose, a girl he has noticed at church, and makes a date with her, then joins Maud and Vidal out hiking in the snow, talking like comfortable old friends. Another friendly kiss. JL gives Francoise a ride home, stays over at her place (but in a separate room), flash-forward they are married with a kid, he meets Maud, and we find out that Francoise had an affair with Maud’s ex husband, but all is forgiven and the family goes to romp in the surf.

Like a more fleshed-out story of The Bakery Girl of Monceau, but this time the women have histories and personalities, and the bakery girl (or Maud) is much harder to write off. JL has a deeper character than anyone in the first two Moral Tales – Criterion calls him “one of the great conflicted figures of sixties cinema.”

JL and Maud:
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On the film’s style, Kent Jones says “No one’s films are more ‘written,’ more narrative based, or more logistically tied to particular places and times of year.” True that, an extremely talky picture, and reliant on its snowy seasonal setting. Finely but simply shot in black and white. No real visual or plot excitement, no stylistic heightening of mood or emotion, but a deeply thought-out script and characters evolving before our eyes. This particular week from Christmas to New Year’s is one of the most important in JL’s life, and we see (or hear) his changing and challenged beliefs, principles and decisions, creating the kind of real human complexity very rarely seen in movies.

Came out a decade after its closest (so far) kin in New Wave cinema, The 400 Blows, probably the quietest and most reserved film of 1969, the year of The Gladiators, Mr. Freedom, Topaz, Satyricon and Easy Rider (but to be fair, also the year of Andrei Rublev, Passion of Anna and Army of Shadows). Third of the Six Moral Tales, the last four of which were shot by Néstor Almendros, who also worked with Truffaut and Barbet Schroeder and later shot Days of Heaven.

More Kent Jones:

What are the chances that Jean-Louis and Maud will have a life together? Based on her luck with men and his avowed preference for Catholic blondes, not so great. Based on their immediate affinity for each other, not so small. “You are a happy soul, despite appearances,” observes Maud of Jean-Louis—and the essential rightness of this observation is what makes Rohmer a greater artist than Bertolucci and also points to what gives My Night at Maud’s its special spark and effervescence. … Current fashion would favor Maud as the voice of reason when she tartly dismisses Jean-Louis’ prevarications: “I prefer people who know what they want.” Yet there’s something equally admirable about Jean-Louis’ insistence on adhering to his story and fulfilling his own platonic conception with Françoise, a decidedly unhappy soul. The necessity of choice, the pain of choice: no film is better at illuminating these two ­equally real aspects of living. There are no moments of grace in My Night at Maud’s. … Yet there are intimations of grace in the slow, serpentine movement toward intimacy between Maud and Jean-Louis.

Maud and Vidal:
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Movie picked up a few screenplay awards, but mostly beaten out by the big political films of the era – Lindsay Anderson’s If… for feature at Cannes, Costa-Gavras Z for foreign film oscar and, ahem, Patton for screenplay oscar.

Vidal – Antoine Vitez (a smallish part in Truffaut’s The Green Room).

Franciose – Marie-Christine Barrault (Queen Gueneviere in Perceval le Gallois, also in Woody Allen’s Stardust Memories)

Maud – Francoise Fabian (the lawyer Lucie in Out 1 and the mother in Secret Defense)

Jean-Louis – Jean-Louis Trintignant, who worked with (in order) Roger Vadim, Jacques Demy, Alain Robbe-Grillet, René Clément, Claude Chabrol, Costa-Gavras, Bertolucci (star of The Conformist), André Téchiné, Kieslowski (Red), and Patrice Chéreau (Those Who Love Me Can Take The Train).

JL and Francoise:
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So Rohmer’s standard scenario for the Moral Tales was: male protagonist with one girl, tempted by another. Sounds easy. Let’s go.

The Bakery Girl of Monceau (1963)
Student is in love with girl Sylvie he passes on the street, finally builds up the nerve to talk to her. Then she disappears for a month. He spends his dinner hour that month looking for Sylvie, eating pastries from a bakery, and littering. Starts flirting with the pastry girl Jacqueline, finally asks her on a date, but he’s not serious about her. Suddenly Sylvie reappears, he makes a date with her the same night and stands up Jacqueline, because why waste time with her when the dream-girl is back in his life?

Short, black and white location-shot with a documentary look, no fancy camera tricks, told very straightforward with a narrator doing most of the talking. Interesting and probably a good intro to the Moral Tales, but not a great film on its own. Moral Tales producer Barbet Schroeder (who I now know better as an actor than a director) stars. Bertrand Tavernier, not yet a director himself, narrates. Michèle Girardon, who played Sylvie and starred in Eric Rohmer’s first feature in ’59, killed herself 12 years after the short was made.

Suzanne’s Career (1963)
Bertrand is kind of a shy, low-key guy. He likes popular girl Sophie, and is friends with obnoxious Guillaume. One day they meet Suzanne and Guillaume successfully schemes to get her into bed. She stays in their life constantly, so G. and B. conspire to start getting her to pay for all their outings. But she still hangs around, now she’s just broke. A few months later, G. is busy with school, B. is still trying to date Sophie, and Suzanne shows up happily married to Sophie’s ex. Her “career” was to land a husband, and given that G. and B. have made themselves look like jerks, it would seem that Suzanne wins at the end.

A good movie. Still black and white, higher proportion of dialogue to narration than in “Monceau” and mostly set in cafes and apartments, so less of a documentary feel but still very story/character based with no showoffy new-wave tricks. It seems that Rohmer is more Truffaut than Godard.

Presentation, or Charlotte and Her Steak (1951/61)
A weird one. Filmed in ’51 with Jean-Luc Godard and two actresses, then edited and overdubbed ten years later by Godard and two different actresses, and wedged into a collection of shorts that Godard made about the Charlotte character. Apparently she’s leaving “Switzerland” soon… on her way someplace hurriedly, she stops at her house pursued by Godard to have a bite to eat. He’s not allowed in, has to stand in the doorway, but she does give him some steak, then they go their separate ways. Can’t tell if the original short even had anything to do with the overdubbed story. A curiosity.

Nadja In Paris (1964)
More of a location documentary than a character study, following visiting student Nadja (her real name) through some of her favorite parts of the city.

The charactors (actors) and their relationships seem more important than plot/storyline, so I’ve made a page for the characters first, then a story summary page, separated into day one and day two, totalling my most complex journal entry to date!

I spent all this time on plot and character description, not necessarily because the story elements are so important, but because I may not get to see this again and I want to be able to remember it.

Thankfully, I have a downloaded copy of the movie from Raitre Italian TV, so I can get lots of screen shots.

But what of the movie, overall? Worth the trip to New York to see it, for sure. A total experience of a film, from the dedicated audience to the live subtitles to the 16mm presentation to the museum theater that hosted it to the sheer length and intermissions to the Jean-Michel Frodon (Cahiers du Cinema editor) introduction to the content, with its very long wide shots and very gradually developing story… many scenes that only form a complete big-picure scenario if you’re paying close attention for most of its runtime.

Dennis Lim of the NY Times called it “the cinephile’s holy grail” and says:

In the annals of monumental cinema there are few objects more sacred than Mr. Rivette’s 12 1/2-hour OUT 1. Shot in the spring of 1970, this fabled colossus owes its stature not just to its immodest duration but also to its rarity. Commissioned and then rejected by French television, the film had its premiere on Sept. 9 and 10, 1971, at the Maison de la Culture in Le Havre before receding into obscurity . . . has become a true phantom film whose reputation rests on its unattainability . . . Mr. Rivette worked without a script, relying instead on a diagram that mapped the junctures at which members of his large ensemble cast would intersect. The actors came up with their dialogue; the only thing Mr. Rivette actually wrote were the enigmatic notes Mr. Léaud’s character receives . . . With OUT 1 he found the perfect match of form and content, an outsize canvas for a narrative too vast to apprehend. In a 1973 interview Mr. Rivette described the film’s creep from quasi-documentary to drama in ominous terms: the fiction ‘swallows everything up and finally auto-destructs’.

I love it – not just a legendary museum curiosity that people pretend to like to impress other cinephiles, but actually an amazing film worthy of its reputation. Of course, mostly its reputation is that of an unattainable film (we were told this was the eighth-ever public screening), not of a great masterwork… but I guess it’s worthy of both of those.

The experimental theater exercises get very long, even too long, but not tedious. If a scene lasts “too long” in a regular movie, maybe you could’ve trimmed two minutes to make it feel right. But the theater scenes aren’t necessary at all, from a story point of view, so there’s no telling how long they need to be. When it hits me that I’ve been watching the same theater scene for twenty minutes, it’s not annoyance but awe that hits me. It’s hard to say what exactly is necessary in this movie… once you start cutting or shortening scenes, tying up loose ends and clarifying character connections and histories, you’re talking about a different movie (and not SPECTRE, but a different movie entirely). Best leave it the unwieldy beast it is, and appreciate it as that.

Dennis Lim’s article is a good one… here’s more:

“Out 1” now seems a relic of a bohemian heyday, a time when you could spend your days rehearsing ancient Greek plays or making 12-hour films. But even in 1970 that hazy idyll was already fading. The film takes its shape, as Mr. Rosenbaum has noted, from “the successive building and shattering of utopian dreams.” An epic meditation on the relationship between the individual and the collective, “Out 1” devotes its second half to fracture and dissolution. But it’s not a depressing film, perhaps because its implicit pessimism is refuted by its very existence. Experiential in the extreme, “Out 1” cannot help transforming the solitary act of moviegoing into a communal one.

And Lim says that Rivette’s 2007 movie Don’t Touch The Axe will be revisiting Balzac’s “History of the Thirteen”. “Does this represent a closing of the circle? An expansion of the master plan? If there’s one thing we know from Mr. Rivette’s films, it’s that the big picture will remain just outside our grasp.”

Ah ha: Rivette’s interview from Film Comment… he says shots of Paris’s landmarks “were inserted…frankly as empty spaces. As a kind of visual silence. . .” I had been wondering.

Reverse Shot says: “In Rivette there’s a sense, not just of watching or duration, both of which are passive ideas, but of actively being put through a process”.

Crawford in Reverse Shot:

Out 1 was made in the aftermath of the social uprising of May ’68, when a series of strikes by Parisian student unions devolved into a full-bore confrontation with the military. What once began as a hope to radically reinvent the mores of a stagnant and conservative society ended meekly, with the unions urging a peaceable return to work and De Gaulle’s party consolidating its power to a greater degree than ever. Out 1 taps into this post-May ’68 malaise, betraying an abiding mistrust in grand social movements, services organizations. Paris is turned into a disconnected amalgam of individual groups hermetically sealed off from one another. . .

Is it too simplistic to describe Colin as a spectator’s surrogate and leave it at that? What do we make of choice to pose as a deaf-mute and his return to that state at the end of the film? How, for that matter, do we take of the weird behavior of the male (Colin) and female (Frédérique) interlopers? Their logic and mode of behavior is vastly different from anyone else in the film; it’s like they’ve parachuted in from Céline and Julie Go Boating.