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Eric Rohmer's Comedies and Proverb Cycle [PART 2 Now Available]

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Eric Rohmer's Comedies and Proverb Cycle [PART 2 Now Available]

#1

Post by St. Gloede » June 18th, 2020, 2:58 pm

Eric Rohmer's Comedies and Proverb cycle is arguably one of the greatest accomplishments in cinematic history, and we have finally completed part two!

In Part 1 we looked at the first 3 films of the cycle:

The Aviator's Wife
A Good Marriageand
Pauline at the Beach

We saw how each of these 3 films built and expanded on the same conflict of love and relationships between men and women. Honestly, they would have worked perfectly as a trilogy in their own right.

However, one of the most exciting things about Rohmer's cinema is one of contradiction - thesis - antithesis - synthesis. Each of the three first films had this inherent dialectic within them, but it is not until the second half of the cycle that the films start to directly contradict and be the antithesis to the previous films.

In part 2 we will look at the final 3 films of the cycle:

Full Moon in Paris
The Green Ray
My Boyfriend's Girlfriend

And see if the contradiction can be resolved, if some kind of harmonious consensual love in indeed possible.

SPOILER WARNING:

Our discussions are in two sets - one based on the basic plot and early development of the story - and then a dissection of the ending and the films as a whole. There will be a clear spoiler warning at the halfway point.

If you have not seen the films in question you can then skip to the next film, the starting times are:

Part 1
Introduction to the Cycle: 00:00
The Aviator's Wife: 10:05
A Good Marriage: 35: 25
Pauline at the Beach: 55:00

You can listen to Part 1 here:

Spotify - https://open.spotify.com/show/3GhRXnb6OzOnfae2Uvkvus
Sounder - https://talking-images.sounder.fm/episo ... cle-part-1

Part 2

Introduction: 00:00
Full Moon in Paris: 02:07
The Green Ray: 23:53
My Boyfriend's Girlfriend: 48:17
Conclusion and Summary: 1:10:56

You can listen to Part 2 here:

Spotify - https://open.spotify.com/show/3GhRXnb6OzOnfae2Uvkvus
Sounder - https://talking-images.sounder.fm/episo ... cle-part-2

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#2

Post by Onderhond » June 18th, 2020, 3:10 pm

Won't be able to add anything this time, apart from the shocker that I've never seen a Rohmer film!

Love the time indications though, that's a nice touch.

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#3

Post by cinewest » June 19th, 2020, 7:02 am

These podcasts are getting better and better. Thanks to all involved.

As far as Rohmer goes, I have always liked his movies, but none have climbed in among my favorites, and he may be a director like Woody Allen, and Almodovar, where the sum of his work is greater than the parts.

Funny, but I have compared these 3 filmmakers before along certain lines (and could easily add the Korean, Sang-Soo Hong, or perhaps Noah Baumbach). All 3 have turned out a film (smallish in scope as well as script/character based) almost every year for a number of years. All 3 have also tended to work similar themes connected to their identities (Rohmer is a very philosophical French Catholic, Allen is a very neurotic New York Jewish comic with a somewhat intellectual / philosophical bent, and Almodovar is a neurotic gay Spanish Catholic comic.

Apart from that, none of Rohmer's films reach the top tier for me (a couple of the detracting elements are the lack of very interesting cinematic qualities, smallish scale, and perhaps over reliance on script). One of the things I appreciate about Almodovar, in contrast, is his visual artistry, and even Allen has shown more of an awareness of visual style. That is not to say that Rohmer is uninteresting cinematically, only that he doesn't inspire me in an aspect of filmmaking that is very connected to what is most attractive for me about the medium (the sound-visual tapestry).

That said,the more films by Rohmer that I see, the more I am impressed with his overall body of work in the way that it works together, much the way his various cycles do, even as each one plays more like a short story or novelette than a singular ambitious masterpiece.

Some of my favorites (The Green Ray, Pauline at the Beach, The Aviator's Wife, and Full Moon in Paris) are the ones this cycle, though, and I haven't seen any of them for awhile, so the conversation is bringing them back, even bolstering my desire to see them again.

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#4

Post by St. Gloede » June 19th, 2020, 9:13 am

cinewest wrote:
June 19th, 2020, 7:02 am
These podcasts are getting better and better. Thanks to all involved.

As far as Rohmer goes, I have always liked his movies, but none have climbed in among my favorites, and he may be a director like Woody Allen, and Almodovar, where the sum of his work is greater than the parts.

Funny, but I have compared these 3 filmmakers before along certain lines (and could easily add the Korean, Sang-Soo Hong, or perhaps Noah Baumbach). All 3 have turned out a film (smallish in scope as well as script/character based) almost every year for a number of years. All 3 have also tended to work similar themes connected to their identities (Rohmer is a very philosophical French Catholic, Allen is a very neurotic New York Jewish comic with a somewhat intellectual / philosophical bent, and Almodovar is a neurotic gay Spanish Catholic comic.

Apart from that, none of Rohmer's films reach the top tier for me (a couple of the detracting elements are the lack of very interesting cinematic qualities, smallish scale, and perhaps over reliance on script). One of the things I appreciate about Almodovar, in contrast, is his visual artistry, and even Allen has shown more of an awareness of visual style. That is not to say that Rohmer is uninteresting cinematically, only that he doesn't inspire me in an aspect of filmmaking that is very connected to what is most attractive for me about the medium (the sound-visual tapestry).

That said,the more films by Rohmer that I see, the more I am impressed with his overall body of work in the way that it works together, much the way his various cycles do, even as each one plays more like a short story or novelette than a singular ambitious masterpiece.

Some of my favorites (The Green Ray, Pauline at the Beach, The Aviator's Wife, and Full Moon in Paris) are the ones this cycle, though, and I haven't seen any of them for awhile, so the conversation is bringing them back, even bolstering my desire to see them again.
:cheers: :cheers: :cheers:

Thank you so much, Cinewest!

I long had a hit and miss relationship with Rohmer before I started to see what he was doing, from dialectics, to his sense of double-edged humour, to his detailed minimalism.

I love the story of Claire's Knee where he planted a rose one year before and timed when it would open to get the shot.

For this cycle in particular it grew so much when I saw just how these films act as an actual cycle, and the way they interact - especially when the next 3 films start to respond/contradict/resolve the first 3 (which we will get into in the next episode).

In terms of cinematic techniques he is certainly sparse, but if you want something a little more detailed and impressive The Aviator's Wife, where he plays with contemplative cinema and essentially creates a near real-time 40-minute "chase" or The Green Ray - which is entirely improvised and shot with a crew of I believe 3-5 people (and has simply gorgeous cinematography) strikes me as his two most impressive - and already two films you liked quite a bit.

All 6 of these films grew a lot when I rewatched them this past few weeks - and if you do rewatch the cycle I would recommend seeing them in chronological order, as a few things can be missed otherwise.

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#5

Post by AdamH » June 19th, 2020, 3:45 pm

I just wanted to say a massive thanks to Chris for all his work on the podcast (and, especially, this episode).

I took part for the first time since episode one as I was the one who originally suggested doing a Rohmer podcast and felt like I should take part in it. I didn't feel very confident and I certainly learned that it would have been better to have prepared some notes as the pressure of being recorded makes me kind of lose my train of thought or stumble a bit.

Normally, the recording process works pretty well but this one was a huge learning curve. There wasn't an extra person who just listened and gave feedback (normally jvv and/or I do that) and we were too ambitious with trying to do 6 films in one episode. Important to learn from this and I hope the end product worked out well. I don't want to put anyone else off joining as this recording session was a one-off in terms of how long it took and it's definitely something that will be improved in the future.

For me personally, I'm just glad it motivated me to watch the six films again. Previously, The Aviator's Wife as easily my favourite but this time The Green Ray was probably my favourite. I empathised a lot with Delphine and loved the ending. Would like to write more but a bit tired today.

I'd rank them this time as:

Best: The Green Ray/The Aviator's Wife
Middle: My Girlfriend's Boyfriend/Pauline at the Beach
Weakest: Full Moon in Paris/A Good Marriage

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#6

Post by cinewest » June 20th, 2020, 2:49 am

@ St. Gloede,

Yes, watching one of the Rohmer cycles from the start, all the way through, like a mini-film festival sounds like a nice idea. As for "cinematic techniques," they are almost as important as artistic intention and craftsmanship (something Rohmer does have), as they have everything to do with the potential power of the medium which I like to think of as an audio-visual tapestry.

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#7

Post by filmbantha » June 23rd, 2020, 2:45 pm

I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the Rohmer episode, great work from everyone who was involved in putting it together!

Up until a few weeks ago I had hardly seen any of Rohmer's films but since his comedies and proverbs series was chosen as a focus for the podcast I decided it was time to catch up on them. I'm so glad this gave me the encouragement to do so as I really enjoyed exploring his work.

I always love reading about films shortly after watching them to dissect the nuances behind the director's meaning so that I can fully understand any subtext. You all did a brilliant job of highlighting lots of fascinating aspects of the films which I had not even considered and this has made me excited to hear what you will come up with in the concluding episode.

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#8

Post by St. Gloede » June 23rd, 2020, 9:54 pm

cinewest wrote:
June 20th, 2020, 2:49 am
@ St. Gloede,

Yes, watching one of the Rohmer cycles from the start, all the way through, like a mini-film festival sounds like a nice idea. As for "cinematic techniques," they are almost as important as artistic intention and craftsmanship (something Rohmer does have), as they have everything to do with the potential power of the medium which I like to think of as an audio-visual tapestry.
I agree completely, I am referring primarily to overt usage. Rohmer's film tend to be masterly crafted (IMO) - when I say that "in items of cinematic techniques he is certainly sparse" I refer to his restrained minimalist style, i.e. he is not Godar, but his techniques still lead to magic and because of rather than despite his sparseness.

Would really like to hear your views on revisiting these films if you ever put on this mini-film festival - especially as I returned from earlier mixed impressions as well.

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#9

Post by cinewest » June 24th, 2020, 12:43 am

St. Gloede wrote:
June 23rd, 2020, 9:54 pm
cinewest wrote:
June 20th, 2020, 2:49 am
@ St. Gloede,

Yes, watching one of the Rohmer cycles from the start, all the way through, like a mini-film festival sounds like a nice idea. As for "cinematic techniques," they are almost as important as artistic intention and craftsmanship (something Rohmer does have), as they have everything to do with the potential power of the medium which I like to think of as an audio-visual tapestry.
I agree completely, I am referring primarily to overt usage. Rohmer's film tend to be masterly crafted (IMO) - when I say that "in items of cinematic techniques he is certainly sparse" I refer to his restrained minimalist style, i.e. he is not Godar, but his techniques still lead to magic and because of rather than despite his sparseness.

Would really like to hear your views on revisiting these films if you ever put on this mini-film festival - especially as I returned from earlier mixed impressions as well.
I can already sense that I would get more enjoyment out of watching a complete cycle than any single film, and definitely want to do that some day when they are easy to collect. I have Pauline at the Beach on dvd, and notice that quite a few are available to stream on amazon ( I watched and enjoyed a later work called Rendevous in Paris, recently, but actually bailed one evening on A Good Marriage).

Coming back to his "sparse," script based" cinema, he was that way from the beginning, and I remember when I saw May Night at Maud's for the first time how it felt more like early New Wave (circa late 50's) than a film made in 1969 after 10+ years of evolution among New Wave filmmakers, and this has always been the biggest detraction for me, though I have generally enjoyed everything I have seen by him (which was similar with Woody Allen for a 15 year period).

Perhaps, I just don't find his cinema "ambitious" enough to push him into my group of favorite filmmakers, though I do agree that the extent of his "ambition" is better realized when taking a group of his films into account rather than just one.

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#10

Post by St. Gloede » July 16th, 2020, 8:32 am

Wooohooo, part 2 is finally ready.

This was so much fun.

I think our discussion on The Green Ray may just be my favourite film discussion so far, and what a way to tie everything together.

I also want to really think my co-hosts AdamH, Clemmetarey and Tobias for all their work, passion and observations.

I also have to thank Rohmer as I struggle to think of any series that you can discuss and dissect to this degree. It is likely the English teacher in him, but the amount of counter points and metaphors he sneaks in, and the way every little thing can have meaning is absolutely incredible.

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#11

Post by St. Gloede » July 16th, 2020, 8:36 am

Oh, and for those who already listened to part 1 and don't feel like scrolling up, you can listen to Part 2 here:

Spotify - https://open.spotify.com/show/3GhRXnb6OzOnfae2Uvkvus
Sounder - https://talking-images.sounder.fm/episo ... cle-part-2

-

Introduction: 00:00
Full Moon in Paris: 02:07
The Green Ray: 23:53
My Boyfriend's Girlfriend: 48:17
Conclusion and Summary: 1:10:56

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#12

Post by AdamH » July 18th, 2020, 6:16 pm

I really enjoyed participating in part two. Particularly discussing The Green Ray. It was great motivation to re-watch the who Comedies and Proverbs series and hear other points of view on the film and it actually forced me to try to articulate my opinions on the films too which I think is a very positive thing as I don't normally speak (rather than post) about these types of films to people.

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#13

Post by cinewest » July 19th, 2020, 8:29 am

Nice job, guys. These film chats have become one of my favorite features of the site, and I not only wish I had time to watch the films prior to the podcast, but also time to participate in the conversation.

With one year old twins running around and tiring me out at night, my film watching has taken a big hit in the past year, and I can’t make any commitments to projects like these, especially living in the China time zone.

I enjoyed all of these Rohmer films in the theater when they came out, and it’s just been too long for me to remember many details about about, though it is nice to hear you all bring them to life again.

Another nice aspect is getting to know Some of the film enthusiasts On this board more, and hear what they think about films rather than just see their film lists.

Great job, guys. As nice at it is to hear more opinions, following A conversation involving fewer voices also Improves the clarity and depth of the conversation

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#14

Post by St. Gloede » July 20th, 2020, 11:37 am

cinewest wrote:
July 19th, 2020, 8:29 am
Nice job, guys. These film chats have become one of my favorite features of the site, and I not only wish I had time to watch the films prior to the podcast, but also time to participate in the conversation.

With one year old twins running around and tiring me out at night, my film watching has taken a big hit in the past year, and I can’t make any commitments to projects like these, especially living in the China time zone.

I enjoyed all of these Rohmer films in the theater when they came out, and it’s just been too long for me to remember many details about about, though it is nice to hear you all bring them to life again.

Another nice aspect is getting to know Some of the film enthusiasts On this board more, and hear what they think about films rather than just see their film lists.

Great job, guys. As nice at it is to hear more opinions, following A conversation involving fewer voices also Improves the clarity and depth of the conversation
So lovely to hear that. Thank you so much for the comment, and we'd love to have you on. :cheers:

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#15

Post by St. Gloede » July 20th, 2020, 12:12 pm

After the podcast I have kept thinking of the trains and their metaphorical meaning, and I have been trying to figure out their exact usage. I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts.

Let me just starting by highlighting how trains were used: *Please note, there will be spoilers here.

The Aviator's Wife: Francois is frequently seen walking from, to and between train stations, but never gets on a train. *Please also note that the series opens inside a famous Paris train station before moving to our lead at his job.

A Good Marriage: Sabine is frequently shown on a train. She is never shown entering or leaving the train or train station.

Pauline at the Beach: Marion takes a train off-screen, removing her from the action of the 3rd act.

Full Moon in Paris: Opening shot pans towards Louise and Remi's apartment as a train drives by. Ending shot pans back with the empty train tracks. There are several references to catching trains throughout, but we never see her on a train or entering a train station.

The Green Ray: 1. Sabine is on a train (focus is on the outside) 2. Final act starts as she waits inside a train station.

My Boyfriend's Girlfriend: The characters are frequently shown in trainstations, either preparing to get on a train or arriving from one.

-

I think we can look at trains both as a direct metaphor within each film, and as a consistent motif. I also think the train metaphors are rather obvious highlights of character traits/issues as opposed to specifically give additional/new knowledge, though it could be possible to use the trains to in some way predict the films as well.

-

So let's quickly look at the surface level ideas:

The Aviator's Wife: I think this ties in with how Francois cannot think of nothing (the proverb), and/or how scattered his train of thought is. He has no clear path or focus, and cannot get on the track to find the happiness and love he seeks. Interpreted further it could be interpreted as him not being able to even get on the train - though leaving down the train station at the beginning may imply hope.

A Good Marriage: Sabine always being on the train and never getting off seems to simply echo the fact that her focus is absolute and how obsessed she is with Edmond. It may also, interpreted further, that she can not actually arrive at her destination.

Pauline at the Beach: Marion taking the train off-screen and as such missing all the action. In the final scene (upon her return) she wishes to not know the reality of what happened, but to invent a story (and for Pauline to invent a opposing story) so that both can live in blissful ignorance (each believing it was the love interest of the other that cheated). The difference being that Pauline actually knows what happened. The simple fact that Marion took the train off screen, would seem to simply highlight the fact that she does not value reality and serve as a reflective echo of her final decision/expression of belief (or vice versa).

Full Moon in Paris: The simple interpretation here is that the train passed Louise by and she lost "everything" - and it is interesting that this scene happened before we were even introduced to her character as this may be the first time the ending was spelled out in the very first scene. The final scene adding that there is no train for her.

The Green Ray: This is the first time a motif was repeated in the series, as in a Good Marriage we see Delphine inside a train - though here looking out, the focus being on the outside, while the focus in A Good Marriage was always the inside of the cart. The most obvious interpretation of the ending, as she meets her potential love, is that she is literally waiting for her train, and it is worth noting that this is the first film in the series which did not have circular openings and endings. *Some would also argue this is the first film with a happy ending, though, it is still ambigious.

My Boyfriend's Girlfriend: This is the second film that is not circular, and the first with a completely open and shut happy ending, with everyone smiling, laughing and separating as friends. (While there is always a counter point, as discussed in the podcast). It is interesting that this happened to the characters we specifically see waiting for their trains and arriving at their destinations - as we could take this further and say they completed their journey. In other words, building on the tools set up in the previous films we could have guessed a happy ending from the use of trains.

In terms of the trains themselves: The consistent motif of the trains really seem to symbolize the obvious, ie their path in life, if they are on the right track and if they can arrive at their destination.

-

What do you think?

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#16

Post by St. Gloede » July 27th, 2020, 8:25 am

One other running theme (or metaphor?) is vacations.

I tried to see if it was used in all - but I don't recall a mention in A Good Marriage (though I am likely wrong as it is in all the others)

In The Aviator's Wife Francois and Anne just started dating after meeting on vacation, while in the antithesis and synthesis, Delphine meets a man at the end of her vacation (who she might start dating) in The Green Ray and in My Boyfriend's Girlfriend the couples get together just before their vacations, which they go on together.

Then of course we have the completely sealed off summer romances in Pauline at the Beach (perhaps countering The Aviator's Wife in that the holiday romance might have been better staying as such? Or, simply looking at the alternative) and, less obviously, in Full Moon in Paris, Louise's friend is proven innocent of sleeping with her boyfriend because she was on vacation.

*And of course both Pauline at the Beach and The Green Ray are the "vacation films" in the cycle.

Any other references to vacations I might have missed?

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#17

Post by cinewest » August 1st, 2020, 7:29 am

@ St.Gloede,

Wish I could respond to your posts about the motifs in This Rohmer cycle, but it has just been too long.

I did watch Sang-Soo Hong’s The Day After last night, though, and was reminded quite a bit of early Rohmer. Another director who makes small, relationship films that explore related themes is Koreeda, though he doesn’t seem as closely related as Sang-Soo or Woody Allen.
Maybe if you mixed Rohmer with the Dardennes and colored him Asian you might get someone like Koreeda.

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#18

Post by St. Gloede » August 2nd, 2020, 1:39 pm

cinewest wrote:
August 1st, 2020, 7:29 am
@ St.Gloede,

Wish I could respond to your posts about the motifs in This Rohmer cycle, but it has just been too long.

I did watch Sang-Soo Hong’s The Day After last night, though, and was reminded quite a bit of early Rohmer. Another director who makes small, relationship films that explore related themes is Koreeda, though he doesn’t seem as closely related as Sang-Soo or Woody Allen.
Maybe if you mixed Rohmer with the Dardennes and colored him Asian you might get someone like Koreeda.
:lol:

And yes, good stylistic comparisons, despite not caring for either as much as Rohmer (but then I have also not invested the same time, reading, consistent focus, etc. so that can definitely change in the future. There are a few things that makes Rohmer very different from both Hong and Koreeda, the first being his background as a literature teacher (which likely informed his focus on bringing in various philosophies, allusions, motifs, etc. into his work), then the focus on a antithesis, his focus on space (especially architecture and bature) and his background as a critic/theorist leading him to experiment in very specific ways (And that's not mentioning the fairly unique focus on cycles). It would definitely be interesting to do something similar with Hong, as revisiting Comedies and Proverbs elevated each and every film in the cycle for me.

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#19

Post by cinewest » August 2nd, 2020, 3:18 pm

St. Gloede wrote:
August 2nd, 2020, 1:39 pm
cinewest wrote:
August 1st, 2020, 7:29 am
@ St.Gloede,

Wish I could respond to your posts about the motifs in This Rohmer cycle, but it has just been too long.

I did watch Sang-Soo Hong’s The Day After last night, though, and was reminded quite a bit of early Rohmer. Another director who makes small, relationship films that explore related themes is Koreeda, though he doesn’t seem as closely related as Sang-Soo or Woody Allen.
Maybe if you mixed Rohmer with the Dardennes and colored him Asian you might get someone like Koreeda.
:lol:

And yes, good stylistic comparisons, despite not caring for either as much as Rohmer (but then I have also not invested the same time, reading, consistent focus, etc. so that can definitely change in the future. There are a few things that makes Rohmer very different from both Hong and Koreeda, the first being his background as a literature teacher (which likely informed his focus on bringing in various philosophies, allusions, motifs, etc. into his work), then the focus on a antithesis, his focus on space (especially architecture and bature) and his background as a critic/theorist leading him to experiment in very specific ways (And that's not mentioning the fairly unique focus on cycles). It would definitely be interesting to do something similar with Hong, as revisiting Comedies and Proverbs elevated each and every film in the cycle for me.
Of course, your distinctions are valid. But as I was watching Hong's film, I could't help but think of Rohmer.

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#20

Post by St. Gloede » August 2nd, 2020, 3:21 pm

That feeling is very much mutual. :cheers:

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