To all the tributes to Eric Rohmer, who died a few days ago
at the age of 89, I'd like to add one from my late mother, Kathleen Keough. I think
it's fair to say that Rohmer was her favorite French director. Not that she was
a big expert in the field, though later in life she expanded her knowledge of
foreign films. As her hearing started to fade, she appreciated the subtitles.
She also appreciated the humanity, wit and subtle emotional satisfactions
of Rohmer's "An Autumn Tale" (1999),
which became one of her favorite movies. I can see why. Like many of Rohmer's
movies, it's a simple tale about nice, smart, attractive people who have a hard
time figuring out why they're not happy and what they should do about it. Usually these
characters are young whippersnappers. In this case, though, in keeping with the
autumnal title, the heroine is older and a widow and is looking for a third act
to complete her life. Not to give too
much away, but Rohmer once again delivers a happy ending that you don't
really expect and actually can believe in.
As for myself, I'd probably pick "The Green Ray"
[a.k.a. "Summer"] (1986) as my favorite
Rohmer film. In it an unhappy young woman goes on a voyage in hopes of a
miracle that will turn her life around. Rohmer doesn't let her down. Well, not really. In its quiet way, the
film fulfills her wish, offering up something like what James Agee has termed elsewhere as "the incontrovertible perception of the incredible." Not bad for a
chatty little comedy of manners.