Sunday, January 17, 2010

Belated R.I.P: Eric Rohmer

Somehow it never feels quite right, in the wake of a disaster that kills tens of thousands people in some of the most horrible ways imaginable, to focus on the simultaneous but unrelated, natural death of one fortunate and privileged man, however great or accomplished. Yet it's in the name of something greater than that one man - namely, his art - that we should remember someone like Eric Rohmer. I'm hardly a connoisseur of his work, having only seen two of his films (Conte de printemps and Le rayon vert), but for me he embodies an aesthetic so dramatically (and refreshingly) different from the dominant M.O. of American movies that it is, in its own way, as quietly necessary as it is, sadly, now a little bit more likely to fade with his passing.

I'm talking about films that revolve around conversations - true, generally conversations between privileged, educated, self-analytical, otherwise relatively unremarkable people, but still nonetheless films that are most interested in the act of communication and the layers of character it reveals, rather than the more immediate visual and sensory stimuli we tend to look for in our movies. The closest analogue I can think of in American film is Richard Linklater's "Before Sunrise"/"Before Sunset" diptych, though I suppose some trace of Rohmer's spirit lingers on in any film that is considered "talky" or character-centered rather than plot or action-driven. Here's hoping that spirit lives on and continues to find audiences, now and in the future.


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