(1998)4Wheeler Winston DixonEric Rohmer is definitely an acquired taste, and his films have driven many viewers to distraction with their long and meandering dialogue sequences, their general air of unpredictable improvisation, and their resolutely stately pace of execution. But these are the values that Rohmer prizes in his work, and he is, in fact, one of the last European filmmakers of the original New Wave still making films entirely on his own terms. Indeed, despite their apparent air of casual execution, Rohmer's films are worked out as precisely as a chess game in advance, and the outcome of the tale is never in doubt in the director's mind. For the audience, however, Rohmer's films are an endless voyage of personal discovery, thankfully refusing to obey the usual rules of film genre. In Autumn Tale, the deeply independent and capricious owner of a vineyard, Magali, a widow (in a superb performance by Béatrice Romand) is happy with her life and her winemaking, but her best friend, Isabelle (Marie Rivière), decides that she's lonely, and decides to find her a new husband. Without Magali's knowledge, Isabelle places a classified ad "for" Magali, and then hopes to unite Magali with a new soul mate, whom Isabelle has selected. Affairs of the heart are familiar territory for Rohmer, and as with all his films, the elaborate schemes of the protagonists are undone by the whims of chance, leaving the way open for an entirely unexpected, and yet absolutely correct, conclusion. The film's cinematography is lush, unhurried, and develops a remarkable sense of "place" for Rohmer's characters; shooting on actual locations, he makes the film and its protagonists both real and immediate. The leisurely pace of the film is not to everyone's taste, but Rohmer's elegant tale of love and friendship is a graceful and accomplished film, from one of the world's most idiosyncratic filmmakers.
The final installment in Eric Rohmer's Tales of the Four Seasons quartet of films examines matchmaking among the middle-aged and romance in the Rhone Valley. The target of the matchmakers is widowed vintner Magali (Béatrice Romand), alone at her vineyard after the departure of her grown children. Her best friend (Marie Rivière) plots to pair her with a friendly businessman (Alain Libolt), while her son's girlfriend (Alexia Portal) schemes to introduce her to a high-school philosophy teacher. Rohmer's film was shown at the 1998 Venice Film Festival, the 1998 Telluride Film Festival, the 1998 Toronto Film Festival, and the 1998 New York Film Festival.