It may sound strange but I enjoyed watching the film, but I did not enjoy the film! The film in question was one of Eric Rohmer’s best-known movies and one that was re-released as part of a BFI retrospect in the UK on 2nd January 2015, Le Reyon vert (1986). You may better know it as The Green Ray, or if you live in the USA you probable know it as Summer. Named after a book by Jules Verne that was published as The Green Ray in 1882. It was being shown at the Robert Burns Centre Film Theatre as part of their Film Club programme and the host for the evening was our old friend Alec Barclay.
Alec started his duties by telling us a little of the background of the French director who during his lifetime, he died in 2010, was also a film critic, a journalist, novelist, screenwriter and teacher. He also edited the influential film journal Cahiers du cinema from 1957 to 1963. It was in 1969 that he gained international acclaim when his film My Night at Maud’s was nominated for an Academy Award, then in 1971 Clair’s Knee won the San Sebastian International Film Festival, with tonight’s film winning the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 1986. Rohmer received the Venice Film Festival’s Career Golden Lion in 2001. Our host went on to explain his filmmaking style. A devout catholic, he was interested in the resisting of temptation, and what does not occur in his movies is just as intriguing as what occurs. He makes infrequent use of music and folly, focusing instead on the sounds of voices. Albeit deeply contemplative, Rohmer’s work is rarely conclusive and totally un-Hollywood. Known for improvised dialogue his works indeed demand’s the viewer’s patience. They are films that don’t necessary provide an escape from reality but are said to compel us to face the world in which we live. Despite his standing in the French New Wave movement his work is unlike any of that of his colleagues in fact he almost invents a genre of his own. Tonight’s film was the 5th in a series of films made by Rohmer which were collectively known as “Comedies and Proverbs”
The BFI described his work as ‘engaging with the inner world of feelings and thoughts highlighting words, gestures and glances, his characters are portrayed as intelligent and articulate but recognisably ordinary’ - well in a French sense anyway. The main character in Le Reyon vert is Delphine (the films co-writer Marie Riviere) a shy sensitive late twenty something young women who has apparently just broken up with her boyfriend and her best friend has just pulled out of going on holiday with her during the French holiday break. The realisation that she has nowhere to go and no one to go with, sends her into the depths of depression, although you’re never quite sure if Delphine is not just a miserable so and so anyway, because as this Movie Ramble suggested at the discussion following the screening, that 30 minutes in Delphine’s company could drive you to commit suicide!
There is no mistaking that this film was based in the 1980’s with its dreadful dress sense of both the female and male characters, this along with the hair styles rather date the film. Eric Rohmer’s movies are not for everybody and some critic’s have described his work as ‘watching paint dry’. As I said at the opening of this blog I enjoyed watching the film, but I did not enjoy the film! Its certainly a gentle, slow paced affair with nothing much going on but people talking, nothing wrong with that, but the difference with this movie is that you don’t really care about any of the characters, they evoke no interest in a story whose narrative does not include anything more than will-she or won’t-she go on holiday and if she does manage this herculean task will she ever cheer up? On the plus side in my opinion, but not every one’s who stopped behind to discuss the movie, is that I found the film portrayal totally realistic, also it was very well made and the cinematography by Sophie Maintigneux was excellent. And like myself I think this director equally divided the Film Club audience about whether they would watch another piece of work? Well if you do there has been a box set of his films released recently called The Complete Eric Rohmer at the grand cost of 199 euro’s.