The French film director Éric Rohmer (1920-2010) has passed away at the age of 89. Noted for his conversational films in which characters discuss everything from romance to aesthetics and theology, he was a key figure in postwar European cinema and a major source of inspiration for younger directors such as the American independent Richard Linklater.
Born in 1920 as Jean-Marie Maurice Schérer--and brother of the noted philospher René Schérer--Rohmer initially worked as a secondary school teacher and later as a journalist before moving into film programming and criticism. While serving as an editor for Cahiers du Cinéma in the 1950s, he fell under the influence of the film critic and theorist André Bazin, the spiritual father of the French New Wave. Together with fellow New Wave director Claude Chabrol, Rohmer wrote a landmark, book-length study (published in 1957) on the theme of guilt in Alfred Hitchcock's films. Rohmer's close ties to Catholicism and his relatively conservative political views would later put him at odds with his leftist colleagues such as Jean-Luc Godard.
Although he began making films in the early Fifties, Rohmer's breakthrough came with La Collectionneuse (1967), the fourth installment of his series entitled Six Moral Tales. The original short stories from which he developed the films are included in the Criterion Collection DVD boxset.
While Rohmer's films are sometimes critcized as overly talky, they are nonetheless carefully crafted as cinema. Several years ago, when I had the opportunity to see a new 35mm print of Claire's Knee (Le Genou de Claire, 1970) at the American Cinematheque in Los Angeles, I was struck by the richness of Nestor Almendros' cinematography and for the first time realized the importance of setting to Rohmer's film's as a whole, whether Lake Annecy in Claire's Knee, the eponymous apartment of My Night at Maud's (Ma Nuit chez Maud, 1969), or the vineyards of Autumn Tale (Conte d'automne, 1998).
Toward the end of his career, Rohmer experimented with digital compositing in the historical film The Lady and the Duke (L'Anglaise et le duc, 2002). Set during the French Revolution, this ambitious project combines a large cast of actors with landscape and city paitings of the era. His final film, The Romance of Astrea and Celadon (Les amours d'Astrée et de Céladon, 2007), was adapted from Honoré d'Urfé's early sixteenth century novel L’Astrée.
Here's a list of Rohmer films available on DVD-LEND.
--James Steffen, Film Studies and Media Librarian
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