Rohmer. Rohmer is a significant figure in the French New Wave, Rohmer really picked up when frankly the best of Godard had come and gone in 1967. Rohmer’s camera style is straightforward, but the placement of objects in the frame and entire mise-en-scene is essential to him. He made the Moral Tales series in the 1960’s and 1970’s and the Comedies and Proverbs series in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Rohmer may not be a world-builder like Lynch, Leone or Wes Anderson—but you know a Rohmer film when you see it with the smart dialogue (often involving love and men and women sparring verbally), intellectual references and carefully arranged interiors (usually involving a window). For the purposes of this list he only has one top 500 film and one top 100 of the decade (My Night at Maud’s) but I’ll be the first to admit I haven’t seen some of these in 15 years (which is why there isn’t a grade for them below) but there is a remarkable uniformity in his work that just isn’t there in so many auteurs (some even above Rohmer on this list).
Best film: My Night at Maud’s
- Genuinely successful exploration and medication on fate
- Heady stuff discussing Pascal, religion
- The 3rd of Rohmer’s moral tales
- Certainly can be pointed to as a precursor to other brilliant dialogue/conversation heavy films like Malle’s My Dinner with Andre and Linklater’s Before trilogy
- I have it as a MS top 5 level film of 1969- I have a hard time going higher, despite the devastating ending, when it’s just so straightforward stylistically
total archiveable films: 10
top 100 films: 0
top 500 films: 1 (My Night at Maud’s)
top 100 films of the decade: 1 (My Night at Maud’s)
most overrated: Summer aka The Green Ray is at #348 on the TSPDT consensus list (one of three Rohmer films currently on it including My Night at Maud’s and Claire’s Knee) and I don’t have it in my top 500.
most underrated: Boyfriends and Girlfriends should be somewhere on the TSPDT top 100- and isn’t. It’s the sixth film in the Comedies and Proverbs cycles. Rohmer’s trademark Ozu-like interiors have never been better—an incredibly attractive film.
gem I want to spotlight : The Lady and the Duke. To be clear, it’s not where I’d start if I were doing a Rohmer study for the first time and certainly isn’t one of his finest overall works (see below) but it is the only Rohmer film (aside from Maud that I’ve seen in the last 5 years and its very fascinating.
- A very unique film- on one hand it is a period piece set in the 18th century—almost Masterpiece theater shot on crude video with Rohmer’s typical captivating male and female moral debate/discussion. On the other hand, the background in the exteriors sequences are from laser-projected paintings. They are stunningly beautiful when serving as long shots or establishing shots.
- mesmerizing long shots, exteriors and establishing shots
- an interesting mixture of artifice
- I wish the film were 80% these sequences and 20% interior costume period drama shot on video without much style– not the other way around
- Rohmer at 82 years old
- Starts the film with a montage of these drawings as we get the backstory.
- The interior sequences are stifling and not great—there are 20 minute stretches (at least twice) where we’re stuck inside without the tableaus
- I’m confident we don’t have an archiveable film if The Lady and the Duke were just the interiors and didn’t have the painted/drawing exterior work
- The exteriors are breathtaking- mostly as establishing shots. When mixing actors in it gets a little ugly as the artifice shows (mixed with the actors in the foreground shot on video). Long shots look fine
- Rohmer’s lead Lucy Russell is a good strong character and the debates here with the Duke are smart politics—she’s a royalist—Rohmer seems offended at how bad the manners are of the revolutionaries. Haha
stylistic innovations/traits: Most auteurs, especially the French, are influenced by Renoir but it’s hard to talk about Rohmer without talking about how from a content standpoint most of his films are about the condition of the human heart and relationships, and visually, his best work, features a tremendous use of windows (as both a framing device within the frame, and a source of natural light). Rohmer, like Ozu, cared dearly about the arrangement of objects, bodies and furniture in the frame. Rohmer made academic, dialogue-heavy films (Maud is one of the all-time great “talkers”).
- My Night at Maud’s
- Summer (The Green Ray)
- Claire’s Knee
- Boyfriends and Girlfriends
- The Marquise of O
- La Collectionneuse
- Chloe in the Afternoon
- Pauline at the Beach
- The Lady and the Duke
- A Summer’s Tale
By year and grades
|1967 – La Collectionneuse||R|
|1969- My Night At Maud’s||MS|
|1971- Claire’s Knee|
|1972- Chloe In the Afternoon|
|1976- The Marquise of O|
|1983- Pauline at the Beach||R|
|1986- Summer (The Green Ray)|
|1987- Boyfriends and Girlfriends|
|1996- A Summer’s Tale||R|
|2001- The Lady and the Duke||R|
*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film
MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film
HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film
R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives