Monday, January 11, 2010

RIP Eric Rohmer

“I saw a Rohmer movie once,” sniffs Gene Hackman's detective in Arthur Penn’s Night Moves (1975). “It was kind of like watching paint dry.” I imagined that bemused the filmmaker, not that he hadn't heard it before. And it fits the character perfectly: He's a guy who doesn't see what's right in front of him, which turns out tragically. I remember settling in with Pauline at the Beach (1983) on Cinemax, and expecting a hot number--which it wasn't. But it was a rich experience--Rohmer's films typically are. And in its own way, beneath the chatty surface, it was a hot movie, it's just that at age 18 I wasn't ready to see the substance of sex beneath the skin, as it were.

A noble career his was, as the charter member of the French New Wave whose films so often hearkened back to an earlier time, sometimes historically but most often in a mode of civility and cultural engagement that seems remote but is actually quite refreshing to absorb. I was especially taken with his 2001 film The Lady and the Duke whose up-to-the-minute technique of digital painting recreated a vanished before our eyes. (This I would have liked to have seen in 3D.) Pictured is his last film, 2007's The Romance of Astrée and Céladon. Studied, antique, beautiful--and kind of hot.

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