Eric Rohmer - Director





Nationality: French. Born: Jean-Marie Maurice Scherer in Nancy, France, 4 April 1920. Career: Taught literature teacher at lycée, Nancy, 1942–50; was a film critic, from 1948; founder, with Godard and Rivette, of La Gazette du Cinéma , Paris, 1950; co-authored a book on Alfred Hitchcock with Claude Chabrol, 1957; was editor-in-chief of Cahiers du Cinéma , 1957–63; directed his first feature, Le Signe du lion , 1959; made the "Six contes moraux" (Six Moral Tales), 1962–73; with La Femme de l'aviator , began a new series, "Comédies et proverbes," 1980; began a new series, "Tales of the Four Seasons," 1989. Awards: Berlin Film Festival Silver Berlin Bear and Youth Film Award, for La Collectionneuse , 1967; Prix Max Ophüls, National Society of Film Critics Best Screenplay, New York Film Critics Circle Best Screenplay, for My Night at Maud's ,1969; San Sebastian International Film Festival Golden Seashell, Prix Louis Delluc, Prix Méliès, for Claire's Knee , 1971; Cannes Film Festival Grand Prize of the Jury, for The Marquise of O . . . , 1976; Berlin Film Festival FIPRESCI Award, O.C.I.C Award-Honorable Mention, and Silver Berlin Bear, for Pauline at the Beach , 1983; Venice Film Festival Golden Lion and FIPRESCI Award, for The Green Ray , 1986; Berlin Film Festival FIPRESCI Award and Prize of the Ecumenical Jury-Special Mention, for A Tale of Winter , 1992; National Society of Film Critics Best Foreign Language Film, Venice Film Festival Sergio Trasatti Award-Special Mention, for A Tale of Autumn , 1998 Officier des Arts et des Lettres. Address: 26 av. Pierre-1er-de-Serbie, 75116 Paris, France.


Films as Director and Scriptwriter:

1950

Journal d'un scélérat

1951

Présentation ou Charlotte et son steak ( Charlotte and Her Steak )

1952

Les Petites Filles modèles (co-d) (unfinished)

1954

Bérénice

1956

La Sonate à Kreutzer ( The Kreutzer Sonata )

1958

Véronique et son cancre

1959

Le Signe du lion ( Sign of the Lion ; The Sign of Leo )

1963

La Boulangerie de Monceau (first of the "Contes moraux"; following five films identified by "CM" and number assigned by Rohmer); La Carrière de Suzanne ( Suzanne's Profession ) (CM no. 2)

1964

Nadja à Paris

1964–69

Films for educational television: Les Cabinets de physique au XVIIIème siècle ; Les Métamorphoses du paysage industriel ; Perceval ; Don Quichotte ; Edgar Poë ; Pascal ; La Bruyère ; Mallarmé ; La Béton dans la ville ; Les Contemplations ; Hugo architecte ; Louis Lumière

1965

Films for television series "Cinéastes de notre temps": Carl Dreyer, Le Celluloid et la marbre ; "Place de l'étoile" episode of Paris vu Par . . . ( Six in Paris )

1966

Une Étudiante d'aujourd'hui

1967

La Collectionneuse (CM no. 4) (+ sc); Fermière à Montfaucon

1969

Ma Nuit chez Maud ( My Night at Maud's ) (CM no. 3)

1970

Le Genou de Claire ( Claire's Knee ) (CM no. 5)

1972

L'Amour l'après-midi ( Chloe in the Afternoon ) (CM no. 6)

1976

La Marquise d'O . . . ( The Marquise of O . . . )

1978

Perceval le Gaullois

1980

La Femme de l'aviateur ( The Aviator's Wife )

1982

Le Beau Mariage ( The Perfect Marriage )

1983

Loup y es-tu? ( Wolf, Are You There? ); Pauline à la plage ( Pauline at the Beach )

1984

Les Nuits de la pleine lune ( Full Moon in Paris )

1986

Le Rayon vert ( The Green Ray )

1987

L'Ami de mon amie ( My Girlfriend's Boyfriend ; Boyfriends and Girlfriends ); Quatre Aventures de Reinette et Mirabelle ( Four Adventures of Reinette and Mirabelle )

1989

Conte de printemps ( A Tale of Springtime )

1992

Un Conte d'hiver ( A Tale of Winter )

1993

L'Arbre, le maire et la Mediatheque ( The Tree, The Mayor, and the Mediatheque )

1995

Les rendez-vous de Paris ( Rendezvous in Paris )

1996

Conte d'ete ( A Summer's Tale )

1998

Conte d'automne ( Autumn Tale, A Tale of Autumn )

2000

L'Anglaise et le duc



Other Films:

1954

Berenice (role)

1993

Francois Truffaut: portraits voles ( Francois Truffaut: Stolen Portraits ) (Toubiana, Pascal) (appearance)

Publications


By ROHMER: books—

Hitchcock , with Claude Chabrol, Paris, 1957; Oxford, 1992.

Six contes moraux , Paris, 1974.

The Marquise of O , New York, 1985.

Le Gout de la beauté , edited by Jean Narboni, Paris, 1989.

A Taste for Beauty , Cambridge, 1990.


By ROHMER: articles—

Interview with Graham Petrie, in Film Quarterly (Berkeley), Summer 1971.

"Eric Rohmer Talks about Chloe ," in Inter/View (New York), November 1972.

"Programme Eric Rohmer," an article and interview with Claude Beylie, in Ecran (Paris), April 1974.

" La Marquise d'O . . . ," in Avant-Scène du Cinéma (Paris), October 1976.

"Rohmer's Perceval ," an interview with G. Adair, in Sight and Sound (London), Autumn 1978.

"Rehearsing the Middle Ages," an interview with N. Tesich-Savage, in Film Comment (New York), September/October 1978.

"Un Allegorie policière," with Claude Chabrol, in Avant-Scène du Cinéma (Paris), June 1980.

Interview with Pascal Bonitzer and Serge Daney, in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), May 1981.

"Comedies and Proverbs," an interview with F. Ziolkowski, in Wide Angle (Athens, Ohio), vol. 5, no. 1, 1982.

"Eric Rohmer on Film Scripts and Film Plans," an interview with R. Hammond and J. P. Pagliano, in Literature-Film Quarterly (Salisbury, Maryland), vol. 10, no. 4, October 1982.

Interview with A. Carbonnier and Joel Magny, in Cinéma (Paris), January 1984.

Interview with H. Niogret, and others, in Positif (Paris), November 1986.

Interview with Serge Toubiana and Alain Philippon, in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), February 1987.

"L'homme a la sacoche," in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), November 1989.

"Lettre d' Eric Rohmer, a Jacques Davila," in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), March 1990.

"Nestor Almendros, naturellement," in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), April 1990.

Interview with A. de Baecque and others, in La Revue du Cinéma (Paris), April 1990.

Interview with G. Legrand and F. Thomas, in Positif (Paris), April 1990.

"La pensee et la parole," in Avant Scène du Cinéma (Paris), May 1990.

Interview with A. Danton, in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), February 1992.

" L'arbre, le maire et la mediatheque ou les sept hasards," in Cahier du Cinéma (Paris), February 1993.

"L'amateur," interview with A de Baecque and T. Jousse, in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), May 1993.

Rockwell, John, "Eric Rohmer Writes His Own Winter Tale , in New York Times , 27 March 1994.

On ROHMER: books—

Mellen, Joan, Women and Sexuality in the New Film , New York, 1973.

Vidal, Marion, Les contes moraux d'Eric Rohmer , Paris, 1977

Angeli, G., Eric Rohmer , Milan, 1979.

Mancini, Michele, Eric Rohmer , Florence, 1982.

Estève, Michel, Eric Rohmer 2 , Paris, 1986.

Magny, Joel, Eric Rohmer , Paris, 1986.

Crisp, C. G., Realist and Moralist , Bloomington, Indiana, 1988.

Bonitzer, Pascal, Eric Rohmer , Paris, 1991.

Showalter, E., editor, My Night at Maud's: Eric Rohmer, Director , New Brunswick, New Jersey, 1993.

On ROHMER: articles—

"Eric Rohmer," in Film (London), Spring 1968.

Clarens, Carlos, "L'Amour Sage," in Sight and Sound (London), Winter 1969/70.

"Director of the Year," in International Film Guide 1972 , London, 1971.

Nogueira, Rui, "Eric Rohmer: Choice and Chance," in Sight and Sound (London), Summer 1971.

Mellen, Joan, "The Moral Psychology of Rohmer's Tales," in Cinema (Beverly Hills), Fall 1971.

"Director of the Year," International Film Guide (London, New York), 1972.

Amiel, M., and others, "Dossier-auteur: Eric Rohmer à la recherche de l'absolu," in Cinéma (Paris), February 1979.

Fieschi, J., and others, "Dossier: Le cinéma d'Eric Rohmer," in Cinématographe (Paris), February 1979.

" Pauline à la plage Issue" of Avant-Scène du Cinéma (Paris), no. 310, 1983.

Borchardt, E., "Eric Rohmer's The Marquise of O . . . and the Theory of the German Novella," in Literature/Film Quarterly (Salisbury, Maryland), vol. 12, no. 2, April 1984.

Bergala, Alain, and Alain Philippon, "Eric Rohmer, la Grace et la Rigeur," in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), October 1984.

"Rohmer Issue" of Avant-Scène du Cinéma (Paris), January 1985.

" Le Rayon Vert Issue" of Avant-Scène du Cinéma (Paris), December 1986.

Pym, John, "Silly Girls," in Sight and Sound (London), Winter 1986/87.

Elia, M., "Les jeux de la liberté et du hasard dans les films d'Eric Rohmer," in Séquences (Montreal), August 1987.

Aumont, Jacques, "L'extraordinaire et le solide," in Avant-Scène du Cinéma (Paris), December 1987.

Cossardeaux, C., article in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), January 1988.

Sarris, Andrew, "Films in Focus: Rohmer Resurgent," in Village Voice (New York), 19 July 1988.

Teyssedre, A., article in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), April 1990.

Mayne, Richard, "Still Waving, Not Drowning," in Sight and Sound (London), Summer 1990.

Durgnat, Raymond, "Eric Rohmer: The Enlightenment's Last Gleaming," in Monthly Film Bulletin (London), July 1990.

Rosenbaum, Ron, "Eric Rohmer's Cinema of Snooze," in Madamoiselle , July 1991.

Taboulay, C., article in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), February 1992.

Noel, B., article in Positif (Paris), May 1992.

Baecque, A., de and S. Toubiana, "L'eglise moderne," in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), May 1993.

Dalle Vacche, Angela, "Painting Thoughts, Listening to Images: Eric Rohmer's The Marquise of O. . . ," in Film Quarterly (Berkeley), Summer 1993.


* * *


By virtue of a tenure shared at Cahiers du Cinéma during the 1950s and early 1960s, Eric Rohmer is usually classified with Truffaut, Godard, Chabrol, and Rivette as a member of the French New Wave. Yet, except for three early shorts made with Godard, Rohmer's films seem to share more with the traditional values of such directors as Renoir and Bresson than with the youthful flamboyance of his contemporaries. Much of this divergence is owed to an accident of birth. Born Jean-Marie Maurice Scherer in 1920, Rohmer was at least ten years older than any of the other critic/filmmakers in the Cahiers group. By the time he arrived in Paris in 1948, he was an established teacher of literature at the lycée in Nancy and had published a novel, Elizabeth (1946), under the pseudonym Gilbert Cordier. When he joined the Cahiers staff in 1951 Rohmer had already spent three years as a film critic with such prestigious journals as La Revue du Cinéma and Sartre's Les Temps modernes. Thus Rohmer's aesthetic preferences were more or less determined before he began writing for Cahiers. Still, the move proved decisive. At Cahiers he encountered an environment in which film critics and filmmaking were thought of as merely two aspects of the same activity. Consequently, the critics who wrote for Cahiers never doubted that they would become film directors. As it turned out, Rohmer was one of the first to realize this ambition. In 1951 he wrote and directed a short 16mm film called Charlotte and Her Steak in which Godard, the sole performer, plays a young man who tries to seduce a pair of offscreen women. Two of his next three films were experiments in literary adaptation. These inaugurated his long association with Barbet Schroeder, who produced or co-produced all of Rohmer's subsequent film projects.

In 1958 filmmaking within the Cahiers group was bustling. Rivette, Truffaut, and Chabrol were all shooting features. Rohmer, too, began shooting his first feature, Sign of the Lion. The result, however, would not be greeted with the same enthusiasm that was bestowed on Godard and Truffaut. Rohmer has always maintained that his films are not meant for a mass audience but rather for that small group of viewers who appreciate the less spectacular qualities of the film medium. Unfortunately, Sign of the Lion failed to find even this elite audience. And while Truffaut's The 400 Blows and Godard's Breathless were establishing the Cahiers group as a legitimate film force, it was not until 1963 that Rohmer was able to secure funding for a film of any length. That same year he ended his association with Cahiers du Cinéma. The journal had for some time been moving away from the aesthetic policies of Bazin and towards a more leftist variety of criticism. Rohmer had always been viewed as something of a reactionary and was voted down as co-director. He chose to leave the magazine and devote his entire career to making films. At just this moment Barbet Schroeder was able to find money for a short 16mm film.

While writing the scenario for Suzanne's Profession , Rohmer conceived the master plan for a series of fictional films, each a variation on a single theme: a young man, on the verge of committing himself to one woman, by chance meets a second woman whose charms cause him to question his initial choice. As a result of this encounter, his entire way of thinking, willing, desiring, that is to say, the very fabric of his moral life, starts to unwind. The young man eventually cleaves to his original choice, his ideal woman against whom he measures all his other moral decisions, but the meeting with the second woman (or, as is the case in Claire's Knee , a trinity of women) creates a breathing space for the young man, a parenthesis in his life for taking stock. The vacillations of the young man, who often functions as the film's narrator, comprise the major action of the six films, known as "Six Moral Tales."

Rohmer recognizes the irony in his use of cinema, a medium which relies on objective, exterior images, to stage his interior moral dramas. But by effecting minute changes in the exterior landscape, he expresses subtle alterations in his protagonist's interior drama. This explains why Rohmer pays such scrupulous attention to rendering surface detail. Each film in the "Six Moral Tales" was shot on the very location and at the exact time of year in which the story is set. Rohmer was forced to postpone the shooting of My Night at Maud's for an entire year so that Jean-Louis Trintignant would be available during the Christmas season, the moment when the fiction was scripted to begin. The painter Daniel in La Collectioneuse is played by Daniel Pommereulle, a painter in real life. The Marxist historian and the priest who preaches the sermon at the end of My Night at Maud's are, in real life, historian and priest. The female novelist of Claire's Knee is a novelist, and the married couple of Chloe in the Afternoon are portrayed by husband and wife. Such attention to detail allowed Rohmer to realize an advance in the art of cinematic adaptation with his next two films, The Marquise of O . . . and Perceval. As he entered the 1980s, Rohmer completed two films of a new series of moral tales which he calls "Parables." In contrast to the "Six Moral Tales," the "Parables" are not played out on the interior landscape of a single character but rather engage an entire social milieu. In The Aviator's Wife , a young postal clerk trails his mistress around Paris to spy on her affair with another man. During his peregrinations, he meets a young female student and loses track of his mistress. He decides he prefers the company of the young student, only to discover her in the arms of another man. The Perfect Marriage chronicles the attempts of a young Parisian woman to persuade the man whom she had decided will make her a perfect husband that she will, in turn, make him the perfect wife. She discovers, too late, that he has been engaged to another woman all along.

Emerging from the crucible of the French New Wave, Rohmer has forged a style that combines the best qualities of Bresson and Renoir with distinctive traits of the Hollywood masters. And though he was never as flamboyant as Godard or Truffaut, Rohmer's appeal has proved much hardier. The international success that met My Night at Maud's and The Marquise of O . . . built a following that awaited the new set of moral dilemmas limned by each further installment of the "Parables" with eagerness and reverence.

During the 1980s, Rohmer went on to complete his "Comedies and Proverbs" series. These films include: Pauline at the Beach , a clever, sharply observed comedy that compares the dishonesty of adult alliances and the forthrightness of adolescence; Full Moon in Paris , which details the plight of a willful young woman and her involvement with different men; Four Adventures of Reinette and Mirabelle , which insightfully contrasts the lives of two young women, one from the country and the other from the city; and My Girlfriend's Boyfriend , which also follows what happens when two very different women begin a friendship and then start playing amorous games with a pair of men. Here, Rohmer proves a master at writing dialogue for characters whose romantic feelings change with the setting sun.

Rohmer then began a new series, called "Tales of the Four Seasons." Its initial entry, A Tale of Springtime , is a typically refreshing Rohmer concoction. The filmmaker tells the story of Jeanne, a high school philosophy teacher with time on her hands who meets and befriends a younger woman. The latter's father has a girlfriend her age, whom she despises, so she decides to play cupid for Jeanne and her dad. Rohmer's dialogue is typically casual yet revealing. Beneath what may seem like superficial chatter, much is divulged regarding the characters' wants, needs, and desires. A Tale of Springtime is a film about everyday feelings and reactions—and Rohmer transforms these everyday feelings and reactions into art. His characters find themselves in uncomfortable or comic situations that are nonetheless of a real-life quality that can be related to on a universal level.

Rohmer's follow-up, A Tale of Winter , is the bittersweet story of a hairdresser who has an affair while on holiday but accidentally gives her lover the wrong address when they part. They lose touch, and she has his baby. All that remains of the child's father are some photos and memories, her undying love—and the baby. Two ardent but very different suitors have become her boyfriends, and she cannot decide which one to marry. Rohmer's point, beautifully illustrated, is that one should not settle for second best in love. Follow your heart, and allow it to lead you to your true destiny.

A Tale of Winter is flawed, if only because Rohmer's heroine is far too flaky; she is constantly wavering and unfairly leading on the two suitors in a manner that makes it difficult to sympathize with her plight. Still, Rohmer's thesis is well-taken; even middle-of-the-road Rohmer is far more engaging than the works of most other filmmakers.

The final two "Tales of the Four Seasons" are A Summer's Tale and A Tale of Autumn. The first is a sweet and airy concoction about Gaspard, a moody math student passing his summer in Brittany, and his involvement with three very different young women. While the result is at best mid-level Rohmer, its point of view—you are defined by the decisions you make, and how you regard those around you and react to daily situations—is vintage Rohmer. The director was back in top form with A Tale of Autumn , the story of Magali, a fortysomething widow with two grown children, who operates her own rural vineyard. Magali has everything in life she possibly could want—all except for a companion, a relationship with just the right man. She admits this to her best friend Isabelle, but adds that she feels it is too late in life for her to find such a man. The story is set into motion when Isabelle schemes to play cupid for her friend by placing a personal ad in a newspaper. At the same time Rosine, the girlfriend of Magali's son, plots to set her up with her former professor, who also is her ex-lover.

A Tale of Autumn oozes charm. It is vintage Rohmer: a sweet, literate, sophisticated story, crammed with sparkling, Rohmeresque dialogue. The star is the conversation between the characters, who reveal their feelings and how they relate to each other and the world around them at this particular point in their lives. Indeed, what emerges triumphant in A Tale of Autumn is the art of conversation.

—Dennis Nastav, updated by Rob Edelman



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