The films of Eric Rohmer are exquisite things that in their meandering tempos, airy spaces and adult meditations on love and morality taught us not only how to live life but also how to watch movies.
They transpire in seemingly real time, frequently with nonprofessional actors and usually without music. The quietude is broken by human chatter, people passionately expressing their desires, worries and worldviews, often straining against bourgeois conventionalism. Wisdom and moral crises mark these magnificently humanistic films. Narrative is light, with emphasis on words, image and ideas. They demand patience of us, much as life does the same.
Rohmer made scores of films, and I'm mad about almost every one I've seen. If you're new to the filmmaker, these are five Rohmer essentials:
• 'My Night at Maud's' (1969). The strict moral codes of a Catholic man (Jean-Louis Trintignant) are put to the test when he winds up spending the night in the apartment of a lively divorc?e (Fran?oise Fabian). The third film in Rohmer's Six Moral Tales series is one of the most important movies of 1960s world cinema.
• 'Claire's Knee' (1970). The simple, absurdly pure vision of a young woman's knee sets off a tussle of moral torture in the man who spies it. Love is a many-tangled thing, and the heart wants what the heart wants, even when it wants everything. Part five in the Six Moral Tales.
• 'Chlo? in the Afternoon' (aka, 'Love in the Afternoon,' 1972). A married man's passions are overcharged by the bounty of beautiful women he sees daily in Paris, but it only takes one, his old flame Chlo? (the irresistible Zouzou ), to rattle the foundations of his marriage. This masterwork concludes the Six Moral Tales series.
• 'Pauline at the Beach' (1983). While on a beach vacation, teenager Pauline learns about the ups and downs of desire from her older cousin's affairs, as well as from her disillusioning dalliance with a boy her age.
• 'Summer' (1986). A magical story about one woman's search for happiness and, of course, love that strikes every emotional note of human desire. The final shot is euphoric.