In Eric Rohmer’s latest, three short stories chart the effects of chance encounters of the amorous kind in contemporary Paris. In the first, a student, doubtful of her lover’s fidelity, is chatted up in a market by a youth who may or may not be a thief; in the second, a teacher’s attempts to seduce a woman already in a long-term relationship are both stimulated and frustrated by her feelings about the public places in which they are forced to meet; in the third, an artist playing host to a Swedish visitor decides to ignore her in favour of a woman he follows through the streets to the Picasso Museum. Slight tales, perhaps, but Rohmer turns a seemingly inconsequential confection into yet another of his subtly observed studies of modern love.
As ever, the performances he elicits from his cast of unknowns – all of them under 30 – are wonderfully naturalistic, and the scripts, while firmly rooted in everyday behaviour, are packed with typically elegant ironies, telling deceits and resonant allusions. What gives this particular piece a lift is partly the fact that Rohmer shot it so casually, on 16mm and a minimal budget, so that like The Green Ray or Four Adventures of Reinette and Mirabelle, it’s something of a return to the ideals of the Nouvelle Vague (New Wave); partly that it’s very much a love letter to Paris, city of romance, art, history and cool modern architecture. The acute feeling for milieux is not decorative but crucial, in that the relationships we see are profoundly affected by the mood, population and topography of the places in which they develop. Witty, touching, perceptive, this is a film that belies Rohmer’s 70-odd years.
With: Clara Bellar, Antoine Basler.