The great Eric Rohmer took a while getting into directing films, and has since been a bit of an enigma. He finds himself in the pantheon of the Nouvelle Vague, but is quite unlike his peers in terms of defining for himself a trademark style – even the very approachable François Truffaut has a distinct style. In contrast Rohmer’s films are unassumingly straightforward, charming and witty even, without any distinct embellishment save his innate sense of morality, but there’s no mistaking his great eye for cinema and an incredibly deep insight into human nature if you care to peel back a few layers. This becomes evident through the viewing experience – and I shall use the film of another equally enigmatic director to illustrate – Jacques Rivette’s “La Belle Noiseuse” – what we experience watching Rohmer’s films can be roughly equated to what the artist Frenhofer goes through while working on his painting – as it becomes evident, what he ends up creating is not as important (or relevant even) as his experience in the process. The fact that Rohmer can neither be pigeon-holed nor defined in material terms despite having won worldwide acclaim and produced several timeless classics speak volumes of his artistry. For those interested in a more informed reading on Éric Rohmer however, check out this interesting website dedicated to New Wave Cinema.
I shall start with a delightful little comedy from around the middle of his career, “Pauline à la Plage” [Eng. Title: Pauline at the Beach], a film whose idea originated way back in the 1950’s in a heavily thumbed notebook that Rohmer enthusiastically waves to the camera in the DVD interview. It is also one of Rohmer’s personal favourites (and mine too), and therefore a fitting start to his filmography in the blog.
Set in a sunny northern coastal town, the film observes the coming of age of adolescent Pauline amidst the antics of her much older cousin Marión and the other adult men they encounter. They’re on holiday and a recently separated Marión had been asked to be the minder of precocious, intelligent, and inquisitive Pauline. We see them drawing attention from prospective suitors, falling in love, being betrayed, getting confused, and moving on in this comedy of errors. Towards the end, it is Pauline, belying her tender years that comes through as the most mature of the lot.
Despite the fact that the actress playing Pauline was barely sixteen when the film was made, I’ve chosen to post the compilation because the film is such a beautiful piece of cinema, one that all members of my family, young and old have watched and enjoyed. Beautiful French icon Arielle Dombasle who plays Marión was in her stunning prime, and Amanda Langlet is adorable and incredibly cute as the young Pauline in the verge of becoming an adult. The screenplay and characterisation is flawless, as is the visually arresting cinematography and the charming direction. Needless to say, Highly Recommended Viewing..!
I’ve cut my compilation from my Eric Rohmer Collection box set, which includes a must-see interview with the great man, and also a radio interview with English subtitles. But for those who want to purchase the film separately, I’m not sure if there are any extras, but here’s a link anyway.