The retrospective will open with a lecture by Mikhail Trofimenkov “Éric Rohmer, the Cinematographer”, followed by the screening of two short films from the same cycle, where the director’s key themes and leitmotifs penetrating his entire practice are already evident.
The first two films, the mid-length The Bakery Girl of Monceau and Suzanne’s Career, were released in cinemas on the same day and can be viewed as a dilogy within one cycle. Here, Rohmer’s typical protagonist appears for the first time—one who is put into a position of a moral dilemma in his relationships with women, and we also see the birth of a plot about the difficulties on the way to love, the paradoxes of desire, and self-deceit.
Both films’ narratives unfold in Paris in the student milieu. Although the main twists of the plot are based around the changeable relationsips of the male characters with women, material wealth and social status, which combine to form the mysterious individual feature called “taste”, also play an important role in the plot collisions. Both protagonists are students, contemplating their choices and putting their thoughts into words in off-screen monologues—an essential part of all films form the cycle (except Claire’s Knee). However, final decisions and moral solutions are forced from the outside, and primarily by chance. The theme of divine disposal is playfully introduced by the Catholic director into the fabric of the plot.
For the leading roles, Rohmer invited his friends, who were actively involved in the French cinematic process in the 1960s. The buyer at the bakery in the first film is played by critic Michel Mardor, that of his friend—by Fred Yunk, who later became conservator at the Luxembourg Cinematheque, while the main character is performed by Barbet Shroeder, producer of the film and, in the years that followed, one of the main European producers of independent film (among other movies, his company Les Films du Losange released Michael Haneke’s The White Ribbon and Lars von Trier’s Antichrist).
In his brief lecture before the screening, acclaimed Russian film historian and French cinema expert Mikhail Trofimenkov will speak about the cinematic way, as well as the theoretical views and contexts of Éric Rohmer’s oeuvre, beginning with his Revue du Cinema and Cahiers du Cinema of the French “new wave” period, to his late practice when Rohmer was already in his eighties.
The Bakery Girl of Monceau
Director Éric Rohmer. France, 1963. 23 minutes.
Director Éric Rohmer. France, 1963. 54 minutes.