Eric Rohmer is a director associated with the French New Wave. Jean Luc Godard praised his take on French life in the seventies and eighties. On hearing this, you probably imagine artsy black and white films full of jump cuts and philosophical debate.
Rohmer couldn’t be further from this. His luscious color films often concern the lives of every day Parisians with considerable humor. One could almost argue he is a kind of French Woody Allen or a middle-class Mike Leigh.
He is also known for doing cycles of films. Six films form what is called rather loftily, the moral tales and another group form the ‘Comedies and Proverbs’ series.
Among these is the beautiful ‘Le Rayon Vert,’ which was recently shown at The Metrograph cinema in New York.
Indeed, the film is often is shown there and is some something of a favorite for patrons.
It concerns Delphine a young French woman who finds herself without a holiday destination for the French summer. Bearing in mind holidays in France can last up to 6 weeks, that’s a big deal.
What follows is the increasingly tearful and fraught Delphine’s attempt to find a place to which she can belong and perhaps find a young man with whom she can ease her loneliness. She tries Cherbourg, the French Alps and finally Biarritz. Each is a crashing failure because the socially awkward and sensitive young woman just can’t seem to fit in with the often vapid people around her.
Interestingly, we start feeling that maybe Delphine is overly fussy, even a bit of a pain in the ass but as the film grows and we spend time with our heroine, she becomes more and more sympathetic.
By the end, we’ve fallen a little in love with her and been on a journey that questions what constitutes a holiday and what constitutes love.
Along with the equally wonderful Pauline at the Beach and Full Moon in Paris, it is a high watermark of Rohmer’s career, that is full of highly accessible films that show you don’t need to be experimental to be arthouse. You just need a good DP, a fantastic cast and simple tale well told to be eternally relevant.