Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Rohmer in Retrospect: Le Rayon Vert (1986)****

Director, writer and critic Eric Rohmer passed away on January 11, 2010, at the age of 89. In this series, we will be examining some of his lesser known films.

Delphine, a thirty-ish Parisian office worker, is about to begin eight weeks of vacation, and is absolutely miserable about it. Eric Rohmer’s breezy account of a young woman who mistakes solitude for freedom, features one of his favorite leading ladies, Marie Rivere, as our rather confused heroine.

In search of the perfect holiday, Delphine manages to traipse from Cherbourg to the Alps to the Pyrenees, with nothing to show for it but torn ticket stubs and some bewildered new acquaintances. Marie is one of those people for whom life is nothing but a series of complications, and Rohmer does some elegantly simply storytelling in showing us how her psychological make-up is her biggest impediment. Delphine has every reason to be cheery, but she prefers to wallow in gloom because her original vacation plans have fallen through.

Yet, virtually everywhere she turns, her concerned friends offer her idyllic respites at beach houses or mountain cabins, but to Delphine, these offers are second rate and somehow beneath her standards. Eventually, she accepts an invitation to stay with a friend’s welcoming and hospitable family at their ocean-side retreat, where Delphine mopes and sulks and passive-aggressively complains until everyone shares her misery. When Delphine suddenly and unexpectedly decides to return to Paris, no one is too sad to see her go.

Rohmer uses repeated references to astrology and fortune-telling as a device to depict Delphine’s lack of involvement in the real world and her penchant for extreme and debilitating navel-gazing. He then travels this thematic path to a surprising conclusion, as he hints that our nearest star, the sun, may actually hold the secret to Delphine’s elusive contentment.

In all, despite a couple of tiresome scenes, this is a typically well executed Rohmer light drama, involving and rewarding to those willing to invest a bit of patience. And we all know someone like Delphine; a person who passionately searches for reasons to be wretched.

For some reason, the film was released in North American under the title "Summer", which has created some confusion over the years. This film is not part of Rohmer's "Tales of the Four Seasons", but is part of his "Comedies and Proverbs" series.

Production Details


Tracey said...

Though my comments may be sparse, I am very much enjoying your reviews. On this one, which I'm curious to see, I wonder: is Delphine passionately searching for reasons to be wretched, or is she passionately searching for (external) reasons for her (internal) wretchedness? I guess I'll just have to watch it.

Bunched Undies said...

Thanks Tracey. That's an interesting, and possibly correct observation. I'll be curious as to what you think of it.

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