9 April 2001 | Aw-komon
That sly clown Rohmer does it again and again
I read in a short critique of Rohmer recently the perfect sentence to describe his work and how to approach it: "It is when we let Rohmer's irony (the incongruence of his characters) be a seed of self-reflection within ourselves that his films take on a transcendent dimension." The transcendent dimension that all great works of art have is there but you have to let the irony become a seed of self-reflection first, you have to actively participate, hence the reason why many people find Rohmer's films boring. They don't even realize what they're missing and don't want to know! The closer a Rohmer film is to soap opera on the surface and the less offbeat it is the more money it makes (the recent "Autumn's Tale" made a very impressive 2 million dollars on the art-house circuit but I, for one, thought it was just o.k.), but ALL of them have depth if you look for it.
Rohmer's films slowly and quietly build into elaborate structures of subtly hilarious sophistication which get better with each viewing (letting the irony really take root and become a seed of self-reflection). They are all (on the surface at least) very similar: done low-budget but with quietly superb and magnificent cinematography, maximum conversation, minimum hi-jinks or action, relying on subtlety and the viewer's undivided attention and engagement to reveal their deep humor and depth. All of Rohmer's films make fun of human folly and vanity in a way that's entirely unprecedented, true-to-life, and unique in the cinema. Critics have labeled the term 'classicist' on his head but I don't know of any filmmakers or artists, outside of some of the great satirical novelists of the 19th century, who have approached their subject in this way. There is an incredible amount of pure cinema in Rohmer but done in a way that's completely invisible when the viewer's not seeking it out, absolutely devoid of any tendencies to show-off and draw attention to itself.
"Four Adventures of Reinette and Mirabelle" is about two young girls, one a surrealistic-painter from the country, the other-- a law-student from Paris , both very pretty and charming, who strike up a friendship and go through a few neurotic and enlightening incidents together both in the city and the country: trying to wake up at the moment of absolute silence every morning when night-birds stop chirping and morning birds are still asleep; dealing with a rude Paris cafe waiter; dealing with pan-handlers trying to hustle them for change; moral dilemmas about shoplifting; selling Reinette's painting without her having to speak one word to the gallery owner because she's sticking to a vow of silence she made the day before; etc. The Very Funny and valuable results are captured by Rohmer in his trademark, meditative, and un-intrusive style. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED