Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Director Eric Rohmer R.I.P.

Éric Rohmer, the director who made such films as Ma nuit chez Maud and L'amour l'après-midi, passed on January 11 at the age of 89.

According to some sources, Éric Rohmer was born Maurice Henri Joseph Schérer in Tulle, France on March 21, 1920. Other sources claim his birth name was ean-Marie Maurice Schérer and state that he was born in Nancy. After working as a teacher and as a journalist, he published the novel Elisabeth in 1946. In 1950 he moved to Paris There he befriended such fellow movies lovers as Claude Charbol, Jean-Luc Goddard, François Truffaut, and Jacques Rivette. That same year he co-founded La Gazette du Cinéma with Rivette. The magazine only lasted five issues. He then joined the reviewing staff of the magazine Les Cahiers du Cinéma, on which Goddard and Truffaut also worked. He adopted Éric Rohmer as his pseudonym by combing the names of two men whose work he admired: Erich von Stroheim and Sax Rohmer.

It was in 1952 that Éric Rohmer tried to direct his first feature film, entitled Les Petites Filles Modèles, but the project fell through. He directed the short Bérénice in 1954. In 1957 he directed another short, La sonate à Kreutzer in1956. In 1957 he became the editor on Les Cahiers du Cinéma, a position he held until 1963. It was in 1959 that Rohmer finally joined his fellow directors of La Nouvelle Vague in making a feature film. Le Signe du Lion. Unfortunately, while Truffaut and Goddard has success with Les Quatre Cents Coups and À bout de souffle respectively, Le Signe du Lion made little headway at the box office. He would direct two more shorts, beginning his "Six Moral Tales" series. He returned to feature films with La Collectionneuse in 1967. The film won won the Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival. A success at last, Rohmer went onto direct such films as Ma nuit chez Maud and L'amour l'après-midi. After the "Six Moral Tales" series ended, Rohmer directed the period piece Die Marquise von O.

In 1981 he began a new series, "Comedies and Proverbs," which included such films as La femme de l'aviateur, Pauline à la plage, and L'ami de mon amie . In 1990 he began his final series, "Tales of the Four Seasons," with Conte de printemps. The series ended with the critically acclaimed  Conte d’Automne.  Éric Rohmer continued to direct into the Naughts,  although primarily for the small screen. His 2001 film, L'anglaise et le duc was perceived as portraying the French Revolution in a negative light and as a result having a pro-Royalist bent. His film, Astrée and Céladon, was released in 2007. It was a period piece with fantastic overtones.

Over the years  Éric Rohmer has had his fair share of detractors. Indeed, in the movie Night Moves, Gene Hakcman's character said, “I saw a Rohmer movie once. It was kind of like watching paint dry." Certainly for those who prefer more action in their movies, Rohmer's films would be hard to sit through. After all, Éric Rohmer was a director who was more interested in the thoughts of his characters than he was their actions. There was often a lot of talk in Rohmer's films, informed by intelligent dialogue and well developed characters. Rohmer's preference for thought over action separated him from mainstream directors, but he was also set apart from his fellows members of the Nouvelle Vague in that while their films could be intensely personal, Rohmer's films were more conservative, often romantic and sometimes even sentimental. Éric Rohmer seemed one part psychologist, one part philosopher, and one part poet. He was certainly a great filmmaker.

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