Eric Rohmer, editor of the influential Cahiers du Cinema magazine from 1957 to 1963, one of the founders of French New Wave cinema, and the director of a series of memorable films, has died at age 89. That statement doesn't begin to give you a sense of the richness and subtlety of Rohmer's films. Or how they've remained in the memory of those of us who fell under their spell.
I clearly remember the first one I saw, "My Night at Maud's," as well as with whom and where I saw it. "Maud" was based on one of Rohmer's own stories — "moral tales" — perfect for a pair of young, Catholic, college students: a sexy movie without any actual sex. I immediately taped a magazine photo of the film's star, Jean Louis Trintingnant (above left), inside my bathroom medicine cabinet where I would see his sweetly smiling face every day. My copy of Rohmer's "Six Moral Tales," along with Trintingnant's photo, is still somewhere deep in the recesses of my bookcases.
After Maud came "Claire's Knee," "Pauline at the Beach," and "Chloe in the Afternoon," to name a few. All instantly recognizable as Rohmer's work with their witty and intellectual dialog. Remembering these first movies, which morphed into his later seasonal tales, I realize why I like so little of contemporary cinema. Rohmer got me hooked early on stories; stories that felt true and were filled with talk, talk, talk and more talk.
The last Rohmer film I saw was "The Lady and The Duke," based on the memoirs of an aristocratic Scotswoman living in France at the time of the Revolution (above). What set this film apart was that all the scenes of Paris were beautifully painted backdrops, specifically created to replicate 18th Century reality. The settings and characters were digitally combined in a film of sensuous details.
Rohmer wasn't trying to capture a particular moment on film, but an attitude. As a result, his work has a timeless quality which lets these tales of the intricacies of love, life, and loss continue to shine.