Eric Rohmer, 1920 - 2010

The Auteurs Daily

Eric Rohmer

"Eric Rohmer, a pioneer of the French New Wave which transformed cinema in the 1960s," reports Reuters. "He was 89." As in the barrage of other first reports hitting the wires, the milestones are just touched on now, an outline to be fleshed out over the coming days. And weeks. And years. Born Jean-Marie Maurice Scherer in Nancy on April 4, 1920; first international acclaim with Ma nuit chez Maud (My Night at Maud's), nominated for an Oscar for Best Screenplay in 1969; founding La Gazette du Cinema with Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut and Jacques Rivette in 1950; editorship of Cahiers du Cinéma; the last film, Les amours d'Astree et de Celadon (The Romance of Astree and Celadon) in 2007.

"A former novelist and teacher of French and German literature, Mr Rohmer emphasized the spoken and written word in his films at a time when tastes - thanks in no small part to his own pioneering writing on Alfred Hitchcock and Howard Hawks - had begun to shift from literary adaptations to genre films grounded in strong visual styles." Dave Kehr for the New York Times. (And now the full obituary is here.)

"Eric Rohmer has become my favorite filmmaker in just the way that Eric Rohmer would prefer - without my even noticing." Back in 2006, on the occasion of Criterion's releasing its outstanding Six Moral Tales set, Stephen Metcalf asked in Slate, "Can total unobtrusiveness be a style?"

"Over the years, Rohmer has received a great deal of attention as a writer of dialogue, or to put it more precisely, as a creator of films structured around talk," wrote Kent Jones for Criterion that same year. "He has also been noted as a lover of beautiful young people, as a teller of tales, and as some kind of 'moralist.' None of these observations is terribly insightful, least of all the charge of moralism, which seems to rise from a simple misunderstanding of the term 'moral tale.' It has often been pointed out that Rohmer is a practicing Catholic, to suggest that his Christianity is at the center of his filmmaking. In fact, while his Jesuit education may very well have instilled him with piety, it also doubtless sharpened his spirit of restless inquiry into the roles played by chance, choice, and grace in life - none of which he ever fully embraces.... The key ingredient in Rohmer's cinematic inquiries is the 'ordinariness.'... Even those who are unable to imagine themselves vacationing with Marie Rivière's Delphine or Emmanuelle Chaulet's Blanche - in The Green Ray and Boyfriends and Girlfriends (1987), respectively - or having lunch with Bernard Verley's Frédéric in Love in the Afternoon (1972), can admire Rohmer's extraordinary care with dramatic specifics."

Molly Haskell, again for Criterion in 2006: "Of all the (mostly European, or non-American) directors truly interested in women - that is, who put them repeatedly at the center of their work - none has been so fascinated by the spectrum of womankind, and girlkind (a separate breed in Rohmer, and rightly so), and examined our sex with such a fine mixture of dispassion and empathy."

"Running throughout his films is a powerful sense of the unknowable nature of people and their lives," wrote Tamara Tracz in Senses of Cinema in 2003. "Everyone has his reasons, as Renoir teaches, but in Rohmer's world, we may never know exactly what they are. We never know, for instance, the true nature of Jeanne's relationship with her absent boyfriend in Conte de printemps (A Tale of Springtime, 1990). Nor, despite her many attempts to explain it, can we really understand the need Louise, in Les Nuits de plein lune (Full Moon in Paris, 1984), has to live separately from her boyfriend - something that leads so inevitably to her own desolation. Rohmer's fascination with the unknowable, and his ability to accept it, is integral to his work, and it is possible to mount a serious exploration of his oeuvre while offering him the same space he gives his characters. While his use of pseudonyms is undeniably intriguing, perhaps their intriguing nature is more important than any explanation. It is not in details of his private life that lie the answers to questions raised in Rohmer's films. It is in the work itself, and equally, it is through the work, in which as a creator he is so open, that he can be understood."

A bit more for now: For Criterion, Phillip Lopate on La collectionneuse (1967), Ginette Vincendeau on The Bakery Girl of Monceau (1963) and Suzanne's Career (1963) and Armond White on Love in the Afternoon; discussion here in the Forum; a Yahoo! Group, 21st Century Rohmer; Wikipedia.

LiberationUpdates: Images, clips and quotes as tributes from Joe Bowman, Christoph Hochhäusler, Horses Think, Jahsonic, Filmbo's Chick Magnet, Matthew Flanagan, Glenn Kenny, Ekkehard Knörer, Lawrence Levi, new filmkritik, Dan North, Ray Pride, Nitesh Rohit, the Silver Lining, Gina Teleroli, This isn't happiness.

More discussion at Dave Kehr's place and the House Next Door.

"No filmmaker's work has meant more to me personally in the dozen or so years since I first became interested in cinema as an art form, nor have I been inspired as much by any other artist as I have been by Rohmer." Michael J Anderson: "For me, he was and is not only the greatest director of the French New Wave, but one of the finest filmmakers to ever live, standing beside the heroes of his own younger years Alfred Hitchcock, Howard Hawks, FW Murnau and Jean Renoir."

"Rohmer was one of the most sensitive and intellectually probing of directors," writes Ed Howard. "He had an ear, not only for the way people talked, but for the ways in which their words related obliquely to their inner states."

"A Rohmer film is a flavor that, once tasted, cannot be mistaken," wrote Roger Ebert in 2001. "Like the Japanese master Ozu, with whom he is sometimes compared, he is said to make the same film every time. Yet, also like Ozu, his films seem individual and fresh and never seem to repeat themselves; both directors focus on people rather than plots, and know that every person is a startling original while most plots are more or less the same."

"Few directors were more attuned to the beauty, grace and emotional longing of the human form," writes Patrick Z McGavin.

"If you look a lot of the small indie films I championed during my time at SXSW, it probably doesn't surprise you that I'm a Rohmer fan," blogs Matt Dentler.

More from Jeffrey M Anderson (Cinematical), David Cairns, Robert Cashill, David Denby (New Yorker), Jim Emerson (scanners), Noah Forrest (Movie City News), Tom Hall, Peter Keough (Boston Phoenix), Joe Leydon, Guy Lodge (In Contention), Peter Nellhaus, Jeremy Nyhuis, the Playlist, Vadim Rizov (IFC), Lisa Schwarzbaum (Entertainment Weekly), Andre Soares (Alternative Film Guide), Tom Sutpen and Anne Thompson.

In the Guardian, Tom Milne and Ronald Bergan: "Among the objects of his admiration were Dashiell Hammett, Alfred Hitchcock (about whom he wrote a monograph with Claude Chabrol), Howard Hawks, and above all FW Murnau, the great visual stylist of the German expressionist era (on whose version of Faust he published a doctoral thesis). As a filmmaker, however, he turned instead to such literary-philosophical luminaries as Blaise Pascal, Denis Diderot, Choderlos de Laclos and Jean-Jacques Rousseau.... The Lady and the Duke (L'Anglaise et le Duc, 2001), set during the French Revolution, is as elegant as the heroine, a patrician Englishwoman who defies the citizens' committees. Always experimenting with visual style to suit the subject, Rohmer had the actors seen against artificial tableaux of Paris circa 1792. However, these are not painted backdrops, but perspective drawings, which are intriguingly digitally combined with the action. It proved that Rohmer at 81 was willing to utilise new technology."

"And, meanwhile, Jean-Luc Godard, Agnès Varda, Jacques Rivette and Claude Chabrol - at the respective ages of 79, 81, 81 and 79 - are all still with us, all nursing projects," Peter Bradshaw reminds us. "Rohmer would make Conte d'hiver (A Winter's Tale), as part of his 'tales of four seasons' series, about a young man and woman who have a passionate holiday romance but somehow manage to mislay each other's details and lose touch. It seems almost inconceivable in our world of social networking sites and mobile phones, but at the time it was entirely plausible, and another demonstration of Rohmer's sure touch for sensing the anxieties and dreams of un-moneyed young people, looking for love and adventure - and, as ever, having to travel banally to get it. I think Richard Linklater, in his movies Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, about a missed love-connection, was trying to channel some of the spirit of Eric Rohmer.... And finally, there is Rohmer's remarkable last film, Les amours d'Astrée et de Céladon, a Shakespearean fantasia, a midsummer noon's reverie, conceived along uncompromisingly classical lines, and a thing of quiet joy. Along with his green ray - that flash of mystical revelation available to idealistic young people unencumbered by middle-aged banality - it is my favourite Eric Rohmer. The cinema has lost a philosopher, a quiet rhetorician and a gentle ally of the young."

"The director asked that audiences look at his final film as a 'measured, well-thought-out risk,'" notes the Chicago Tribune's Michael Phillips. "One could say the same of his entire sun-kissed career."

"The quiet elegance of his films is so self-evident that it often overshadows (entirely by Rohmer's careful and deep design) their intellectual substance, which was often at the the edge of moral danger," blogs the New Yorker's Richard Brody. "Rohmer, the only one of the New Wave to have done advanced academic work, was a true polymath (in 1996, he published a superb book, From Mozart to Beethoven: An Essay on the Notion of Profundity in Music), a thinker among filmmakers and a graceful artist among thinkers. The modesty with which he lived and worked are in sharp and touching contrast with his vast achievements."

Joseph Jon Lanthier: "Like his American descendent Whit Stillman, Rohmer overthinks sex while admitting to his audience in remarkably subtle gestures (an aridly lusty smile from La Collectionneuse, a rich rectangle of exposed flesh in Claire’s Knee) the ubiquity of sheer animalism. And this, too, was Rohmer’s novel, irresistable approach to cinema: Maintaining an eloquently controlled, meticulously calculated surface while clandestinely, and sublimely, relying on the instinctual. Has film art ever been so pensive and yet so confident? So cynical and yet so hopelessly romantic?"

Robert Horton looks back on his 1984 piece on Pauline at the Beach (1983).

"Although my support for his work was often guarded, I hope that I did justice to his importance in this August 20, 1999 piece for the Chicago Reader." Jonathan Rosenbaum on Conte d'Automne (Autumn Tale).

Criterion presents a clip from a 2006 interview in which "Rohmer discusses with Barbet Schroeder the unique philosophical sensibility he brought to world cinema."

Updates, 1/12: "Rohmer's work extolled and exemplified the dignities of the human race - emotional, sensual, intellectual," writes Craig Keller. "Rohmer embodied a series of paradoxes. He saw humanity as from a god's-eye-view, but no filmmaker ever shot at the level of the species itself, par la terre, quite like he did: the wind, the water - and the wallpaper. He was a son of Pascal who advanced the scientific method toward the revelation and scrutiny of the longings and delights folded within the hearts of men and women - guided, the entire time, by the prospect of the miracle."

Chloe in the Afternoon"In one of the movies' great transcendent moments, Bernard Verley recognizes his foolish behavior in L'amour l'après-midi (Chloe in the Afternoon, 1972)," recalls Flickhead. "It was the last of the contes moraux, the six moral tales... I've known married men who've referenced Verley's epiphany while devoting serious consideration to cheating on their wives. Yes, Éric Rohmer has saved marriages."

Dennis Grunes: "Rohmer now is in the heaven that he believed in; that's only fair."

"I think my favorite of his films was Le Rayon Vert, which many seemed not to like as its focus was a grumpy not-likable woman who complained about this and that." Jon Jost: "But at the end she, and the audience, are give a little epiphany which I felt worked wonderfully. Quite by accident I worked with an actress, Emmanuelle Chaulet, who had done a film with him, My Girlfriend's Boyfriend (L'Ami de mon amie). Emmanuel played the female lead in my All the Vermeers in New York, opposite Stephen Lack.... There was no script, so we embraced reality and she played, well, a French actress studying in New York! I have no imagination."

"Rohmer's work had a clarity, a simplicity and an emotional transparency that made it stand apart from contemporary cinema and made it feel more like live theater, or overheard café conversation, or one's own life," writes Salon's Andrew O'Hehir, who also collects comments from Nicole Holofcener, Jeff Lipsky and Jonathan Rosenbaum.

"It's hard to overstate the Rohmer's lasting influence, which often amounts to heady verbosity, steady desire, or some conflation of the two," writes the Boston Globe's Wesley Morris. "You could see him, platonically, in My Dinner with Andre and completely in the mumblecore movie of your choice. He managed to inspire, among many of other films, Noah Baumbach's Margot at the Wedding and Chris Rock's I Think I Love My Wife, which had nothing specific enough to do with Chloe in the Afternoon and yet everything to do with it. Rohmer is everywhere."

"Most of Rohmer's films have the same underlying armature: the rejection of one or more false loves (or of mere lusts) in favor of a true one," blogs Richard Brody. "Love is, for Rohmer, a fundamental aspect of culture, of art, and - as he shows in his last film, The Romance of Astree and Celadon - even of religion."

"As light and pleasant as a Rohmer work often was - attractive people falling in love, at least with the idea of love - it was a taste not everyone cared to acquire." Richard Corliss in Time: "Quentin Tarantino, the great enthu-woozy-ast of world cinema, offered this very qualified recommendation of Rohmer's films: 'You have to see one of them, and if you kind of like that one, then you should see his other ones. But you need to see one to see if you like it.' He makes Rohmer's movies sound less like caviar, more like artichokes. Gene Hackman, in his role as a detective in Arthur Penn's 1975 Night Moves, is even more dismissive. 'I saw a Rohmer film once,' he says. 'It was kind of like watching paint dry.' Actually, it was like watching a master painter apply his brushstrokes to a series of fond character studies."

"It does Night Moves and Rohmer a great disservice when that line is quoted as if it's simply a swipe at the French director's movies, which are light on action and heavy on conversation." Jim Emerson has the clip of Hackman's reading and the context as well as another featuring Rohmer's comments in a 1977 interview on the line - and on American cinema in general. And then, for fun, he presents "some of the 01/11/01 Twitter variations on Harry Moseby's line (some of them are pretty damn clever), submitted with the hash tag #nightmoves."

That Little Round-Headed Boy: "Very few filmmakers have the ability to drop you quietly under the surface of their films, so you feel like you are one with the movie, breathing in and out to the same rhythm. Rohmer did. There were few payoffs in a Rohmer film. But a Rohmer movie was nirvana for the patient voyeur."

"He was the most Platonic of writer-directors, the one in whose work there is the clearest demarcation between surface (tidy) and spirit (only fleetingly glimpsed)," writes New York's David Edelstein. "On that surface he largely remained."

At the House Next Door, Odienator remembers "Father Brogan, the Jesuit who taught my undergraduate political science class at my college," and explains the association.

"As Rohmer grew older, he continued teaching university courses and made a point of hanging out with young people so he could write down examples of the way they spoke and the language they used," notes Lisa Nesselson from Paris.

Xan Brooks collects clips for the Guardian, where Agnès Poirier writes: "The New Wave has just lost its father, and France a rigorous observer of his time whose films represented better than most what it may mean to be French.... A graduate in classics and German and until the mid-1950s a professor of literature in provincial France, he always followed Rimbaud's mantra: 'One must be absolutely modern.'" Also, a gallery.

"A Rohmer film is not merely a drama or a comedy, a love story or an exercise in suspense, a psychological study or a philosophical disquisition; it's all these and far, far more." Geoff Andrew in Time Out London: "Whether an original piece or an adaptation, set in the present or past, city or country, it's always first and foremost a Rohmer film. He invented his own genre."

"Rohmer's films, with their long conversations, young characters, and emphases on moral dilemmas arising out of interpersonal drama, have always had a lot to say to American independent filmmakers," writes Filmmaker's Scott Macaulay, referring back to a piece by Peter Bowen in 2001 in which he talks with Ira Sachs, James Schamus and Larry Gross about Rohmer and his influence.

Contes des 4 saisons"His three series - Moral Tales, Comedies and Proverbs and Tales of the Four Seasons - perfected a formally pared-down cinema that focused on people talking, often about their emotional confusion," writes Jonathan Romney for Screen. "But that format - which for art-house audiences came to represent the epitome of intelligent, upmarket French cinema - was executed with finesse, rigour and emotional generosity.... As for what was sometimes dismissed as a lack of visual style, Rohmer's spareness placed the maximum emphasis on the camera's intimate relationship with the performer, and on the pleasures of spoken dialogue."

Tim Lucas: "For many years, he was my favorite filmmaker; Krzysztof Kieslowski eventually overtook him in my estimations, but whenever I revisited Rohmer's work, or saw new work, I felt touched and warmed and changed by it. His films had the power to clear my head and make me see the world again with young eyes, even when he ventured to be cynical or ironic. I feel as though I've lost someone very close and dear to me, met only on the plane of art."

Fabien Lemercier reports for Cineuropa: "French president Nicolas Sarkozy paid tribute 'to the talent and truthfulness of a great auteur.' Meanwhile, Prime Minister François Fillon paid homage to a 'filmmaker of subtlety... who has for a long time been a classic of French cinema' and Culture Minister Frédéric Mitterrand praised 'an all-round man of film and, at the same time, a perfect embodiment of the great bygone literary tradition of analysts of the heart.'"

Catherine Grant gathers links to "online, freely accessible, and notable scholarly resources."

Singer Saints presents an audio tribute: "[A]s quintessentially French as Rohmer is, his philosophical Q&A - effortlessly illustrated through the ordinary life of his characters in the search for a mate (Boyfriends & Girlfriends) or something so banal as a being unable to make up one's mind about where to go on vacation (the sublime Le Rayon Vert [or Summer]) - make him more more akin to Kant than say Balzac. So it's Michelangeli playing the big boys rather than Debussy by way of a tribute (in case you were wondering)."

For Glenn Kenny, writing in the Los Angeles Times, Rohmer "arguably stands as one of the most misunderstood of great directors.... For his final film, 2007's The Romance of Astrea and Celadon, a gender-bending comedy set in a fairy- and druid-populated fifth century (or so) he adopted a style so completely unadorned that some critics scornfully described it as amateurish. Hardly feeling the need to explain himself, he announced that it was likely his final film, and it turned out to be. Misunderstood to the very end: As it happens, Astrea and Celadon is one of his most droll, graceful and wise films."

"The films I loved were Ma Nuit Chez Maude, Le Genou de Claire, La Collectioneuse, and L'Amour, L'Apres-midi," writes David Thomson for the New Republic. "I realize now - decades later - that as I stopped watching him very closely, in a way that I might see my reflection in the mirror, my marriage began to come apart.... The great insight of Eric Rohmer was surely that, intellectually, he had seen the advantage of being blind. But, of course, the blind can smell and hear the smothered music in a shy voice. Truly, life is absurdly dangerous, and Eric Rohmer stepped out every day as sure of the peril as Alfred Hitchcock."

"When Eric Rohmer entered a space with his camera, whether it was a Parisian apartment or a beach or a forest, he somehow managed to enlarge that space into an environment that shimmered and tingled with a kind of spiritual, almost supernatural presence (his only antecedent in this spooky regard was Murnau)." Dan Callahan for the L Magazine: "Rohmer had an ineffable way of looking at his educated men and women as they talked and talked themselves in circles, making plans and describing their own feelings and sensations after the fact until we forget what action they were planning to take and lose ourselves in a kind of heightened inertia. All the while, Rohmer watched over them like a forgiving but sometimes judgmental God."

Citing the Wesley Morris piece excerpted above, Glenn Kenny objects to the comparison with mumblecore and explains why. Three cases: Andrew Bujalski, Aaron Katz and Joe Swanberg. "[I]f some of these filmmakers were inspired in part by Rohmer to pick up their cameras, that's one thing and one thing only; it doesn't necessarily mean that they actually learned anything from him. And also, if you want to see Rohmer, watch Rohmer. There's finally nobody like him."

"Now I yield to no one in my admiration for Rohmer," writes Gilbert Adair in the Guardian. "Yet his characters are among the most foolish and ineffectual milquetoasts ever to have graced a cinema screen; 90% of their celebrated talk is unadulterated twaddle. This is absolutely not a flaw: it is, rather, a species of trompe l'oeil (or trompe l'oreille). Rohmer jangles the small change of wit with such unfailing mastery that, just as his characters are persuaded they are making clever remarks, so most of the audience are persuaded they are hearing them.... Rohmer himself, possessed as he was in person of a uniquely aloof and aristocratic drollery, must have been delighted at how limpidly the vanity of the world on screen was mirrored by that off. When I once interviewed him for Sight and Sound magazine, he remarked, as though it went without saying, that all his films were comedies, whatever the apparent subject - just as life itself, he argued, was a comedy disguised as a tragedy."

In Independencia (and in French), Arnaud Macé.

Moving Image Source runs excerpts from cinematographer and frequent Rohmer collaborator Nestor Almendros's memoir, A Man With a Camera.

Updates, 1/13: "In an earlier era Mr Rohmer might have been an exemplary man of letters," writes AO Scott in the New York Times. "And he was, in the first phase of his career, a novelist, a critic and a scholar. But when he embraced cinema, which he saw as the pre-eminent art form of the time, he did so very much in the literary spirit of the 17th and 18th centuries, insisting it was fully compatible with both the medium and the age. 'Believe it or not,' he once wrote, 'Diderot is a more modern scriptwriter than Faulkner is.' In the same essay Mr Rohmer - or rather, Maurice Schérer, as he was then known - declared that 'The classical age of cinema is not behind us, but ahead.' The strongest evidence for this contention would turn out to be his own oeuvre."

"I have written a novel about a man who traces his life in Beatles songs. I see no reason I can't do the same thing with my real life and Eric Rohmer films." So Robert Horton does just that, reaching back to vague memories of a first viewing of My Night at Maud's in the 70s all the way through to catching La collectioneuse just a couple of years ago: "The way Patrick Bauchau says the name of the heroine, 'Haydee,' is superb. At the time I wrote a note about the film, just in a notebook, about Bauchau's character: 'His narration assures us he knows exactly what he's doing, which he does not.' At his best Rohmer allows you to see yourself in his movies - and boy, there is myself."

The Aviator's Wife"In pushing his naturalism to its uppermost limits, by bringing us as close to his characters as is cinematically possible, Rohmer alerts us to the fact that the projection screen can never be completely shattered," writes Jeremy Nyhuis. "He essentially suggests that, like his own protagonists who often have difficulty understanding their most intimate acquaintances, we as viewers can never completely make contact with these characters' thoughts and emotions, either, no matter how much Rohmer increases our proximity to them. This fragile yet undeviating gap between spectator and spectacle thus becomes a metaphor for the gap between our subjectivity and that of other human beings (a constant theme in Rohmer's films, as particularly demonstrated in My Night at Maud's and The Aviator's Wife), where the suspension of disbelief Rohmer perfects in his naturalism only serves as a reminder of the same suspension we perpetuate in our self-deceptive belief that we can fully comprehend the thoughts and feelings of another person. No matter how much we strive to signify ourselves to others through words, gestures, and expressions, Rohmer implies that the essence of who we are will always remain unknowable to everyone except ourselves."

Slate's Dana Stevens recalls a comment Rohmer made in a 2006 interview with Barbet Schroeder: "In many films, people never discuss ideas, be they moral or political. And when those kinds of discussions are introduced, it often sounds false. What I've tried to do - and this is what I'm happiest with in my films - [is to] show people discussing morality, whatever that might mean, in a completely natural way." After which, she writes: "Sometimes these discussions are abstract and philosophical (Jean-Louis Trintignant, his prospective mistress, and a friend debating Pascal over dinner in My Night at Maud's) and sometimes they're distinctly earthbound (the two dandies in La Collectionneuse taunting the indifferent object of their desire by calling her a slut). But it only takes a minute of hearing and seeing one of these conversations to know you're in Rohmer-world, an enchanted and yet peculiarly unsentimental place in which both words and actions, minds and bodies, matter absolutely."

Updates, 1/14: Philippe Garnier in the LA Weekly: "He would receive you with the same fastidiousness he reserved for his directing, placing you in front of his desk just so, so that the light would be right and your questions better understood. With an almost comic fussiness, he always professed a hatred of talking about himself - but couldn't be stopped once started."

"Rohmer's topic was sex in the head, and he was a master of it," writes Steve Vineberg in the Boston Phoenix.

"My own late-period favourite remains A Summer's Tale, from 1996, one of his Contes des quatre saisons," writes Ryan Gilbey in the New Statesman. "He moves his camera and directs his cast with such intuition and clarity that you are drawn into a movie that seems at first to be a mere bagatelle."

Richard Brody on how Rohmer "Rohmerized his cast."

Fascinating entry: Glenn Kenny briefly recounts the notorious Miller/Skobline/Plevitskaia affair and contrasts the works Vladimir Nabokov and Rohmer made of it: "The Assistant Producer" and Triple Agent, respectively.

Updates, 1/15: "Where Mizoguchi, Kubrick, or Welles may use elaborate tracking shots to convey meaning and impose their authorial voice, Rohmer achieves maximum impact through the smallest moves," writes David Schwartz. "His strongest effects come from such things as the choice to move from a master shot of a conversation to a close-up." As an example, he takes a close look at a scene from Chloë in the Afternoon.

Also in Moving Image Source, Charlotte Garson has been reading the papers in France: "This portrait of a frivolous and voluble Rohmer, loudly refuted yet never supplanted in the obituaries, does not stand up to the scope and variety of his movies. By revisiting the cycles (The Moral Tales, Comedies and Proverbs, Tales of the Four Seasons), the costume-films trend inaugurated by The Marquise of O, such stand-alone works as Four Adventures of Reinette and Mirabelle, or even the pedagogical documentaries like Les Jeux de société, we realize how Rohmer's work and his cinematic philosophy remain unique and perfectly coherent."

Ed Howard on The Lady and the Duke: "Of course, the irony of the film's recurring dialogue about being a 'good citizen' is that citizenship in this society requires a willingness to tacitly endorse inhumanity and horror.... Rohmer's allegiances are clear. He is suggesting that if platitudes about equality and freedom, about helping the working class, about overthrowing tyrants, lead to this, then the ideals are empty and hollow. He is not necessarily aligning himself with either the royalists or the rebels so much as he is taking a humanist slant on this material, evincing a concern for life and fairness that goes beyond abstract ideology."

Walter Donohue posts excerpts from two interviews with Rohmer at FilmInFocus.

Update, 1/16: "'Rohmer,' who made his first short film in 1950, when Schérer was almost 30, and formally retired from filmmaking 57 years later, can best be described as the product of Schérer's intellect. An Ellery Queen, or maybe an Émile Ajar." Ignatiy Vishnevetsky here in The Notebook. "Rohmer was moral, not moralistic. He was serious enough about living to see the irony in life. The moralistic route is an easy way out; few things require less time than judgement, and few more work than presenting the evidence."

Update, 1/17: "It's worth remembering that Mr Rohmer was playing with words, using the word 'moral' in a way that harks back to the French Moralists of the 17th century," writes André Aciman in the NYT. "Despite their emphasis on morality, men like Pascal, La Rochefoucauld and La Bruyère were urbane and disabused analysts of manners, mores and the human psyche. They were perpetually on the lookout for every insidious motivation in others and every instance of self-delusion in themselves. In the hands of a moralist, even sex becomes a conceit.... With Eric Rohmer, as with Mozart, Austen, James and Proust, we need to remember that art is seldom about life, or not quite about life. Art is about discovery and design and reasoning with chaos."

Update, 1/18: "Generally it's said that he didn't use his real name for some undisclosed family reasons, but I was told by someone who should know who exactly it was in his family he didn't want to upset," writes Reid Rosefelt. "[P]resumably, there was somebody that mattered to him who would be very disappointed to discover he was married to a vocation so far beneath him. His life might make a good movie, don't you think? Maybe that's why he made it so many times."

"One week on from his passing we thought it fitting to offer a taste of Eric Rohmer, through a retrospective analysis of two of his most intriguing and enduring works." Menaha Thiru in Little White Lies on Love in the Afternoon and Pauline at the Beach.

Updates, 1/19: "The very pleasures his movies were full of - pleasures of youth and landscape and leisure, however little pleasure the worry-ridden characters derived from them - seemed perhaps too easeful, too much like relaxation, in the same way that Bonnard's paintings might once have seemed too luxuriously beautiful." Geoffrey O'Brien for the New York Review of Books: "I think it will become clear that Rohmer was one of a handful of really great filmmakers of the last half-century. I can't think of a greater. His movies will be seen as aspects of a single enterprise in how they reply to one another and how each further variation deepens the effect of what came before. The rigorousness with which their pleasures are achieved will become more apparent if all the films are seen together."

Listening. Serge Daney interviewed Rohmer for the radio in France in 1986, 1987 and 1990.

Update, 1/23: "Rohmer's understated theory of the relations between the sexes is nothing more than this: men and women drift farthest, and fastest, and most mysteriously, in their dealings with each other." Damion Searls for n+1: "Drift feels like a formless sequence of one thing after another, but it results less from actual formlessness than from rhythmic realism."

Update, 1/24: "Rohmer would appreciate the paradox: the most famous and enduring line about a film maker defined by his characters' endless conversations comes not out of the mouth of one of his characters' but from another movie, where an American film detective is telling his wife why he won't join her at a Rohmer movie." David Coursen at the Parallax View.

Update, 1/26: Craig Keller translates remembrances by Louis Skorecki and Michel Mourlet.

 

Responses

11 responses to this post.  Join the discussion

  • Viktor Pedersen

    Truely saddened by the news.

  • Peter Rinaldi

    a great life. what a body of work. cheers to him! he will not be forgotten.

  • Ally the Manic Listmaker

    I miss him already!

  • Klara Tavakoli

    Legend. My favorite, I’ve idolized him to no end… I absolutely adore Eric Rohmer. RIP.

  • Dan North

    Thankyou, blogosphere, for all of these tributes, and to David for assembling them: reading and learning about an artist is about the best way you can pay your respects, and I’m so impressed by the speed at which all of these people can find their eloquence and share it. All I could manage was a single image of a green ray…

  • Crème Brulée

    R.I.P Eric Rohmer :(

  • Samantha Kate

    Pauline at the Beach was the first foreign film I ever saw. He’ll be missed!

  • 176396

    He left behind a cabinet of treasures, testament to some the finest qualities ever possessed by a filmmaker, and he lived long enough to see his ideas and approaches influence others. A sad day: he leaves an empty space which will not be filled.

  • Wasif

    “Love in the Afternoon” Love for Rohmer a true erudite

  • Jose Sarmiento Hinojosa

    Le Rayon Vert… what a masterpiece. What a loss, really.

  • Roland-Francois Lack

    3 more updates:

    1/ Autopsies, the Afterlife of Dead Objects: Rohmer Memorial Project:
    http://www.autopsiesgroup.com/rohmer-memorial-project.html

    2/ Senses of Cinema issue 54:
    http://www.sensesofcinema.com/

    3/ Cinémathèque française:
    http://www.cinematheque.fr/fr/parlons-cinema/soiree-hommage-eric-rohmer.html

    from RFL

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