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It is not unreasonable to say that Rohmer's films are without par. No
director has ever come close to his exquisite and acute observations of
the human psyche, and so Rohmer's films are probably only comparable to
each other. I find that the more films of his that I watch, the more I
am able to see each film clearer. It is no wonder that out of the
directors that emerged from the French New Wave, only Rohmer has been
able to sustain critical acclaim for his films consistently.
Many detractors find fault with his style -- there is little or no music, the plot is only a very very rough skeleton of what actually goes on in his films (as it takes a backseat to exploring the psychology of his characters), there are many moments of silence, and those moments of dialog are mostly ramblings about philosophy, love, and life instead of plot advancement. Well, I find it quite difficult to articulate the charm of his movies too, since he isn't particularly flashy in his writing or his direction.
His films are largely introspective, drawing us in to view the character's psyche instead of the events that happen to him, as such his films are always introverted and quiet, where it seems nothing much happens. At first glance, the lead characters of his films seem to be all from the same mold: gloomy, quiet people who are extremely prone to making fickle choices and outbursts of emotion. But the more Rohmer you see, the more likely you'd be to distinguish a pattern among them and their distinctive traits in his characters.
They are always caught in a 'limbo' for lack of a better word, usually either caught between two choices that may tear their lives apart or make them better, or caught between two emotions that are pulling them in totally different directions. They are often afraid to take the leap, take the risk in deciding which point of action to make, and thus the films largely comprise of them searching for themselves, their identities, their desires and their wishes. They are as equally clueless about themselves as we are about them initially, and so it is folly to attempt to analyze them at the beginning. And as the film progresses, they learn more about themselves and perhaps we might learn a little more about ourselves too after we have gone through the same emotions and internal struggles with them.
That every lead has a distinctive trait is what separates his movies from each other. Each one of them is stuck, and exemplifies the different nuances of our struggles, and so they might all appear gloomy but they vary in their intents and sentiments. In The Green Ray in particular, the lead character is torn between the craving for solitude, and the unbearable loneliness that comes with it. To say I relate to it probably cheapens the film to a certain extent, but it is the best I can say with Rohmer's films. They portray a small corner in our lives that we have been before, that it is impossible to say any less. The fact that he is able to take each corner of our lives (and its accompanying mood) and blow it up on the big screen into a full-length feature film that is neither didactic nor ever fully reassuring, shows the mastery of his craft. Like us, he is unsure and searching, and he portrays that in his films beautifully.
All of his oeuvre is definitely worth watching, (save for the god-awful La Collectioneuse, one can only assume that he was going through a shitty state of mind when he was making that pretentious junk), and the best thing about Rohmer is the more films you see of him, the more you see in his films. The reason why I singled out The Green Ray (or Summer on the US DVD), is because of its brilliant lead actress Marie Riviere, which is not only immediately likable, but also painfully personal. Her journey is one that I can slip on comfortably anytime, with an ending that is equally sublime as it is magical. I don't want to spoil it for anyone who is intending to pick this up, but let's just say that it is probably one of the greatest moments of cinema that I have witnessed in my short life. To be able to capture it with such beauty and in such a context, not only offers a respite from the turmoil that we (the lead character and I) have gone through, but also a hope of self-discovery and awareness, makes this gem a great slice of cinema.
We have been conditioned as a culture to believe that happiness lies in
an ideal, future state. For example, we think it will all turn out when
we finish school, when we get a job, when we get married, when we have
children, then when we get divorced, or when we retire. It is always
something or someplace more, better, or different but the more things
change, the more they seem to remain the same. In Summer, aka The Green
Ray, one of Eric Rohmer's most insightful and charming films, Delphine
(Marie Riviere) is a young, intelligent, and good-looking Parisian
secretary who has spent her life looking for "Mr Right". Like many who
spend their life "searching", she is a perfectionist who keeps people
away by maintaining impossible standards, then feels inadequate and
unloved when things do not work out. She is interesting rather than
When vacation time comes, her girlfriend goes to Greece with a boyfriend and she is left alone and feeling rejected. Turning down an offer to visit Ireland with her sister's family, she decides to take a trip to Cherbourg with a friend and her boyfriend, and does her best to fit in but it only leads to more frustration. After her friends prepare an elaborate dinner she tells them that she doesn't meat, seafood, or eggs and prefers vegetables like lettuce because they make her feel "light". She won't go sailing because it makes her seasick and she refuses a gift of apple blossoms because she thinks it's wrong to tear such large branches from trees. Rohmer impeccably captures Delphine's intense loneliness, a feeling of isolation that is even more pronounced when the people around you are doing what they think will make you happy. Near tears, she returns to Paris after only a few days in Cherbourg, then visits the Alps thinking she will go mountain climbing but she stays only one day.
When Delphine borrows a friend's apartment in Biarritz, however, she does settle down long enough to unpack. In Biarritz, the story is pretty much the same, however. Delphine says that she wants to meet people but when the opportunity arises in the form of two young men and Lena (Carita), a young Swedish blond, she runs the other way, although from all indications, leaving seems to be the most sensible option. Lena advises her to play cat and mouse with men. "It's like a card game", she says, "you can't reveal your hand right off". Delphine uses this piece of advice as another reason for beating herself up. "My hand is empty", she declares.
Delphine doesn't seem to believe in much, but, like many lonely people, she looks for signs that things are going to turn out all right. She is fascinated with playing cards and when she finds a green card lying in the street, she knows that green is her color of destiny for this year. While strolling the beach at Biarritz she overhears a conversation about a Jules Verne novel about an atmospheric phenomenon known as the Green Ray and she is mesmerized. According to Verne, just before the sun sets below the horizon, if you can see a burst of green light, it will help allow you gain an insight into your true self.
A synopsis of the plot, however, tells us little about what actually goes on in this mostly improvised film. Like most Rohmer works, what happens in the silences is more revealing than in the conversations. An entire world is written in the gestures, the facial expressions, and the nuances that reveal each character's personality. Summer is an intimate story of a woman's loneliness that rings true and brought back a flood of painful memories for me. Delphine, for all her warts, is very human. Somewhere up ahead always looks better than right here. When she can open herself up to the perfection of the moment, however, she becomes directly present to the world and can share its ineffable beauty.
Rohmer´s movies show ordinary people in common situations,
discovering the magic, the loneliness, the doubts and passions that hide behind the dull façade of modernity. There are no superstars, there´s no great music, there aren't magnificent dialogues, just real, natural, ordinary images that become extraordinary precisely because of their simplicity. In the "Rayon Vert", the image of a young woman hearing the noise of the wind in a rural landscape that brings her face to face with the dreaded consciousness of her loneliness, is one of the greatest movie scenes I´ve seen in my life.
The Green Ray is certainly a strange fish - quite simply it's about a
single girl's (almost)wasted summer, going on holiday 3 times, and each
time finding herself bored and frustrated, and ultimately an outsider.
We see scene after scene of holiday makers having a good time, and poor
Delphine just not feeling at ease. She is somewhat opinionated, for
example in the vegetarian lecture - we've all had to sit through one of
those, and liable to burst into self-pitying tears, but Delphine never
the less gets my respect for her refusal to opt for second best.
Very few directors would be brave enough to make a film like this, but Rohmer pulls it off magnificently, and in the process delivers one of his finest movies. I can see why some viewers might find it a waste of time, but having been on a couple of solo holidays in the past I can sympathise with Delphine's predicament. Plus The Green Ray rewards the patient with a truly poetic finale.
I thoroughly enjoyed Le Rayon Vert. It showed "real" people, people
that I felt I could relate to. This effect was achieved through
improvisatory conversations and at points an almost documentary-style
film-making technique, with the camera zooming in with mood changes or
if something interesting is said (though make no mistake the framing
and composition are very carefully controlled).
It's a character study of a lonely Parisienne secretary called Delphine, she is meant to be going off on holiday with a friend, but he cancels at short notice, so she has a dreaded improvised holiday.
What follows is an anatomy of loneliness, a description of the reasons why Delphine is lonely. It's strange to me because the film seemed to be positing two types of understanding, firstly there is fatalistic, bordering on mystic: Delphine is a Capricorn, as the lady at the outdoor dinner says, a goat climbing up a mountain alone. Her destiny seems to be written on cards she finds in the street, she's perhaps portrayed as not being capable of being anything different than what she is, a lonely introvert.
But then on the other hand the film is supposedly instructive, with a moral, and we have people trying to tell Delphine how to engage with life, for example a very outgoing Swedish tourist, and perhaps Delphine is engaging at the end of the film, or on the other hand she has merely been blown by the wind and allowed herself to be picked up a more promising candidate than previously she has met (there are a number of failed attempts to pick her up during the movie).
The movie is visually beautiful, I just love seeing movies shot in 4:3 these days. If you're dealing with human beings, my opinion is that you should be in 4:3, it's essentially portraiture. If you're shooting the Rio Grande or any other large spaces, then go with widescreen. There's some lovely shots of Delphine in the verdancy of nature, when Delphine and the little girl are eating wild blackcurrants (I felt like a child again seeing this, I could taste the blackcurrants), also of a very strange narrow green avenue Delphine goes down in the countryside. Then there's the colours, the red on the clothes that the characters are wearing (Delphine wears red but is searching for green, a contradiction), and little splashes of green all over the place punctuating the compositions. On the topic of Delphine being a walking contradiction, Delphine describes herself as not operating or not functional, like a normal person and then says, "I never do anything special to find someone or something". I always describe myself a bit like that, like a hungry dog that has lost the instinct to bite.
She's much like myself in many ways, when she's talking to the Swede they have a conversation about romantic encounters being a card game, Delphine says she has no cards, she just is exactly what you see, absolutely no coquetry is involved. Well that's me as well. She's really gauche in conversations, the vegetarianism discussion was a great example. I'm also an enthusiast concerning ideals and I love to talk about them given half a chance, but, for example discussing, in the manner of a dog with a bone, how meat-eating is unconscionable, at a table of carnivores, is not very tactful. I often behave like this.
The scene with the blackcurrants is perhaps the most painful, Delphine is staying in Cherbourg with the family of a friend, as a little girl asks her innocent questions about her life, and Delphine's unsocialised paranoia takes over and she wants to know who has put the girl up to asking.
It's a superb movie and it makes me want to see more Rohmer.
I'm a big Rohmer fan - loved the recent Tale series, especially Tale of
Autumn and Tale of Winter. This is one of my favorite Rohmer films which
can see again and again. The main character (wonderfully played by Marie
Riviere) is depressed, moody, lonely and annoying -- which describes most
us, doesn't it -- and she's transformed by love, but only after she
undergoes a journey that takes her deeper into herself.
What is it about Eric Rohmer? His main characters are usually a pain, they talk incessantly about trivial things, and they're bored and depressed. But Rohmer draws you in, absorbs you -- and somehow everything becomes quite soulful and profound and the films resonate in your head for days. Rohmer has what Nabokov called "shamantzen" -- spellbinding power -- the power of great storytellers.
This is one of the most beautiful movies in the whole world. We can see an extraordinary Marie Riviere playing Delphine in a simply but charming history about loneliness and life as we know it. This film teach us to not close our eyes to the real things and keep going to the future no matter how empty looks everything around us. This is an obligatory stop to every film addict in this planet because also has a great photography and an amazing screenplay, maybe the dialogs are not brilliant, however is made for captivate the sensitives souls; And there is a sequence when Delphine has a discussion about the meat that is just fabulous and is when you think, whoa! this is really a very impressive movie. Excellent.
I am a big fan of this director. I saw this film many years ago, and it made a great impression on me. It is one of the most hopeful movies I have ever seen. It think it captures how magical moments can intrude into our lives when we least expect them. This is an exceedingly quiet movie, but stay with it, it builds up to a wonderful catharsis. The lead actress gives a good depiction of a frustrated, melancholy woman trying to find her way out of difficult period in her life. To enjoy this movie, it helps greatly if you are fascinated by unusual astronomical phenomena, and French and Swedish women. . .and you must be willing to stick to a movie which has long moments when not much seems to be happening. I guess I really like the lead actress, she is superb!
Something new on the screen! The sun shines, the wind blows, the clouds
but it never rains. The treetops shiver in the melancholy gusts, the people
gasp and murmur and gesticulate, and tears run down our heroine's cheeks.
Again and again her face contorts as her fragile boat grinds on the rocky
A frustrated secretary lives for love. When a chance encounter informs her of the green ray, she is enamoured, thinking that this controversial phenomenon will bring the psychic clarity she so needs. She has so little self-esteem that she identifies with everything around her, she is somehow somewhat egoless, a pair of eyes, a pair of ears, a tortured heart. Her frame is delicate, almost skeletal. Fear is eating her soul.
She cannot reciprocate the robust friendship of one group of people due to her delicate vegetarian outlook (which she paradoxically defends with great vigour and the most articulacy she summons in two hours on screen). But she is excluded also due to the delicacy she cannot control (her sea-sickness, her love-sickness...) Wherever she goes, in fact, she cannot make friends. The ski bums of the alps treat her with relaxed cool cordiality but she leaves immediately because, she says, "I know that place". The implication is that she thinks she's leaving because the place is decadent and full of one night stands but that the underlying reality is of her not being able to stomach any reminder of herself. She wants to be reborn with a childlike clarity in the last miraculous light of the dying sun. This emphasises a cycle of small deaths and rebirths - falling into and out of love, leaving home, coming back again, leaving again.
This film is deeply concerned with one person and may seem obsessive, but it's one way of looking at life and has of course many resonances for our self-obsessed selves. Of course we cannot escape from ourselves, though we can expand that self so that it is not so claustrophobic to live in.
Watching the film,we keenly feel the same inevasible loneliness as the heroine Delphine.While trivial conversations keep going and going(seems non-stop for ever),the loneliness become more and more intolerable.No one can,or is ready to,understand others(even being friends).Then Delphine's every attempt to communicate has to get dissolved in pretence and indifference from others.It's the common situation shared by everyone who still hold his/her dreams like Delphine.
Rohmer has considerable mercy to show the final appearing of "Le Rayon Vert".£¬It offers us some redeeming hope so that we can collect our confidence and faith in life to looke for "Rayon Vert" of ourselves.Maybe we will be still waiting in the final twilight of life,but our dreams will remain beautiful and vivid the same,right?
In the film,Rohmer shows more sympathy and affection on his characters than usual,much considerately as we see.Of course I just watched a few from him.This time I see none of the distinct irony(sometimes acrid) in formers.
btw,the actress Marie Riviere portrays "blue" Delphine perfectly.And I surprisedly find her also in "Writers",along with Rohmer. Expect more from them.
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