Friday, August 19, 2011

Self-Referential Links: My Night at Maud's

I've written about Eric Rohmer, the director of this week's classic My Night at Maud's a couple of times on the site.  The first was the day he died, in January of last year, when I celebrated his contribution to film history and the particular inspiration he and the rest of the French New Wave have had on us here at Metro Classics and resolved to go out and watch some of his films.  The second, posted three weeks later, was a roundup of the first six films I watched, the Six Moral Tales, my favorite of which is the film we're playing this week.

Over at my own website, the Rohmerathon has continued over the past year and a half as I slowly work my way through the rest of his films.  Over the next week, I'll be posting short reviews of the next series he did after the Moral Tales, Comedies and Proverbs  (The Aviator's Wife, A Good Marriage, Pauline at the Beach, Full Moon in Paris, The Green Ray and My Girlfriend's Boyfriend).  Today though, here's a quick look at two of his period films, 1976's The Marquise of O and his last film, 2007's The Romance of Astrea and Celadon:

The Marquise of O - Thanks to a couple of sales at, I find myself owning almost every Eric Rohmer film on DVD.  But I haven't gone on a Rohmer-watching rampage.  Not because I don't want to see them all, but rather because I want to savor them and parcel them out slowly over the rest of my life.  Watching them all in a few months would just feel wrong, given what the films are like: their decidedly unrushed pace, the value they place in a contemplative approach to life.  This was his first feature after finishing his series of Six Moral Tales with 1972's Love in the Afternoon (he appears to have been making a TV series in the interim) and it's a rare Rohmer film that's not part of a larger series.  Based on a German novel, it's about a young high-born widow in a war-torn country who appears to have become pregnant without knowing why.  It turns out Bruno Ganz took advantage of her while she was passed out after a battle.  Ganz is desperately trying to get her and her family to let him marry her, but they just think he's weird to be in so much of a hurry.  When her pregnancy becomes obvious, her family throws her out, despite her protestations of innocence.  Only Rohmer could get us to believe in the romanticism of it all and actually root for Ganz to get the girl and live happily ever after. 

The Romance of Astrea and Celadon - Eric Rohmer's death 11 months ago was a catalyst for me to finally watch some of his films, and I've loved every one of the eight I've seen so far.  This was his last movie, set in fifth century Gaul and about a community of Druidic shepherds slowly Christianizing.  Astrea loves Celadon, but his parents don't approve of her, so she has him flirt with another girl, then gets horribly jealous when he does.  She bans him from her presence and he jumps in the river.  He survives, meets some nymphs (one of whom also falls in love with him), lives in a hut for awhile, dresses as a woman and builds a shrine, which is explained to a group of pilgrims in terms surprisingly like the Catholicism of My Night at Maud's.  You wouldn't think that the Rohmerian tradition of lengthy conversations about morality and sexuality would translate well to fifth century Gaul, but it does.  It's the lightest, prettiest Rohmer I've seen.  It floats. 

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