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Autumn Tale

A vintage harvest for Rohmer

By Bence Olveczky

Written and directed by Eric Rohmer

With Marie RiviËre, BÉatrice Romand, Alain Libolt, Didier Sandre, Alexia Portal

Fed up with the muggy Massachusetts summer? Longing for the felicitous fall to arrive? Rejoice, for temporary relief is on its way. On Friday, August 6th, Eric Rohmer’s enchanting autumn installment of his Tales of the Four Seasons will open at the air-conditioned Kendall Square Cinema.

Rohmer, like the vintage wines of his native France, ages well. With nothing left to prove, but everything to give, the 79 year old arthouse auteur surpasses himself with Autumn Tale, a warm and beguiling film about a middle-aged woman’s search for love and happiness.

Magali (BÉatrice Romand), a wild-haired widow who manages her own vineyard in the beautiful Rhone Valley, is vital and vivacious, but lonely for love. The 45 year-old mother of two yearns for passion and intimacy, but is convinced that she is too old to find the right man. “At my age it’s easier to find buried treasure,” she says. But her childhood friend, the beautiful and happily married Isabelle (Marie RiviËre) thinks otherwise. She takes it upon herself to find a suitable suitor for her proud and picky friend, and without Magali’s consent she places a personal ad in her name.

Posing as Magali, Isabelle hand-picks Gerald (Alain Libolt), a charming and handsome salesman. After explaining the ploy to her disenchanted date, she instructs him to bump into Magali at her daughter’s wedding reception. But Magali’s son’s girlfriend Rosine (Alexia Portal) intends to use the same party to introduce her prospective mother-in-law to Etienne (Didier Sandre), a vain and pompous philosophy professor who also happens to be Rosine’s ex-lover.

Confused? Well, so are most of the characters in the this funny and thought-provoking romantic comedy. Complications naturally ensue, but Rohmer neatly side-steps the cheap clichÉs of the genre, making Autumn Tale a complex and intricate feature about real people in real situations.

“In my films we talk, we talk,” Rohmer once said, and his latest offering is certainly no exception. He lets the dialogue (which won him the award for Best Screenplay at Cannes last year) do the job for him, never allowing cinematic effects to get in the way of the actors. It is the charming, if conniving, characters -- all French to the core -- that carry the film with their uncontrived and honest discussions about the nature of love.

Once again Rohmer has delivered the goods we have learned to love. This, his twenty-third feature, may seem remarkably similar to his previous twenty-two, but to call for change would be to ruin an institution. Rohmer’s detailed studies of confused French intellectuals are filled with an abundance of warmth and wisdom, a sorely lacking quality in movies these days. His clever and witty films have lit up the European filmscape since he burst onto the scene as part of the French New Wave in the late 50’s, and judging by Autumn Tale, the old master is still shining bright. At 79, that’s a pretty impressive feat.