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Magali, 45, is a wine producer in the south of France. She's a widow, and her best friend, Isabelle, decides to find her a new husband. She puts an ad in the local newspaper and finds a nice man, Gérald. At Isabelle's daughter's wedding, Magali eventually meets Gérald. But there's another man around, Etienne... Written by
Literally vintage at Eric Rohmer's best - well-aged tale of the ageless friendship of two women
If you're not an Eric Rohmer fan, then it just might be too casually French and talkative. It actually reminded me of Rohmer's 1981 "Le Beau Mariage" (A Good Marriage) which also has Beatrice Romand, and Marie Riviere who was in 1986 " Le Rayon vert" (The Green Ray, aka Summer). Here they are paired up, 12 years hence, in 1998 "Conte d'automne" - it's almost like Rohmer waited for them to mature into 40 something to make this film. Rohmer is 79 and what a veteran at telling stories about (mostly young) women of the hearts. This time it is vintage, literally so about Beatrice's character Magali, who owns a vineyard, and her enduring friendship with Marie's character Isabelle, with Rohmer's long-standing subject of relationships, seeking marriage companion, and matters of the heart. Isabelle and Magali both are married now with grown-up children, in fact in the beginning, we see Isabelle, her husband, her daughter and son-in-law to be discussing about wedding invitees. We follow Isabelle, leading us to Magali's vineyard and meeting Magali, and a young woman named Rosine (portrayed by Alexia Portal) who's supposed to be Magali's son's current girlfriend. Yes, Rohmer simply cannot not have his favorite 20 something young woman characters out of the picture - it actually plays an important supporting role in this Autumn Tale.
For a change, Isabelle and Magali are the focus of this Rohmer tale, but the subject is still about woman and man relationships, the dance of chance and mischance, the fluttered, confused matters of the heart. Here, Rohmer has added 'spice' to his story, there is actually alluring, intriguing twists and turns of affair, and Marie Riviere as Isabelle is simply wonderful to watch, as she engineered a match for her best friend, Magali. Beatrice Romand's facial expression is reminiscent of her role in "Le Beau Mariage", it's like going back in time to see how Magali might have been when she was younger, before her marriage in "Autumn Tale". Same for Isabelle, when I rerun "The Green Ray", I noticed the disposition that Marie Riviere displayed then is still observed in "Autumn Tale" - it's like tracing her 20 something period and what she's like then. You can say Rohmer's tales have soap opera ingredients in them, but they are always truly French and definitely lots of dialog, full of philosophies of life and relationships, of the pursuit of love and companionship.
The men characters are never neglected - they are equally and subtly complex in their supporting roles. Etienne, Rosine's professor, and Gerard, Magali's potential match arranged by Isabelle, are both well portrayed by Didier Sandre and Alain Libolt respectively. They seemed so comfortable in their roles even in uncomfortable situations. Chance and fate are strong elements in Rohmer's tales, and they are in high dosage here. This may not be for everyone (NFE), but surely a delight for Eric Rohmer fans, or whoever likes a dose of French cinema, and perhaps cable viewers of Romance Classics, AMC (American Movie Classics) or BRAVO. Rohmer at 79, vraiment formidable!
I do recommend "The Green Ray" if you haven't seen it, and if you find Beatrice Romand's character fascinating, try viewing "Le Beau Mariage".
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