on eric rohmer 1920-2010


Someone is walking somewhere from someplace else—so begins an Eric Rohmer movie. Two secretaries in an office chat about nothing in particular; mail is sorted; a boat is at sea. The pointless opening is crucial for establishing the rhythm of these movies, and what happens as they unfold is not that events get more exciting but that the pointless events grow richer in meaning. These movies capture the formless sequentiality of life, which moves us along until we find ourselves somewhere other than where we thought we were, or thought we might end up. Jean-Louis’s conversation during My Night at Maud’s feels like those real late-night sessions, mostly in college, which you can never plan in advance or later quite recall; in The Aviator’s Wife, after hours of brooding and planning and anticipating the effects of what he has to say to his girlfriend, François never dreams that one thing he says will make her defensive, another will make her jealous, and a third will make her cry, so their talk shifts back and forth and it bewilders the boy, and perhaps the older woman too. Rohmer’s understated theory of the relations between the sexes is nothing more than this: men and women drift farthest, and fastest, and most mysteriously, in their dealings with each other.

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