The director of twenty-five films, including My Night at Maud’s (1969), which was nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award, and the editor in chief of Cahiers du cinéma from 1957 to 1963, Éric Rohmer set the terms by which people watched, made, and thought about cinema for decades. Such brilliance does not develop in a vacuum, and Rohmer cultivated a fascinating networkThe director of twenty-five films, including My Night at Maud’s (1969), which was nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award, and the editor in chief of Cahiers du cinéma from 1957 to 1963, Éric Rohmer set the terms by which people watched, made, and thought about cinema for decades. Such brilliance does not develop in a vacuum, and Rohmer cultivated a fascinating network of friends, colleagues, and industry contacts that kept his outlook sharp and propelled his work forward. Despite his privacy, he cared deeply about politics, religion, culture, and fostering a public appreciation of the medium he loved.This exhaustive biography uses personal archives and interviews to enrich our knowledge of Rohmer’s public achievements and lesser known interests and relations. The filmmaker kept in close communication with his contemporaries and competitors: François Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, Claude Chabrol, and Jacques Rivette. He held a paradoxical fascination with royalist politics, the fate of the environment, Catholicism, classical music, and the French nightclub scene, and his films were regularly featured at New York and Los Angeles film festivals. Despite an austere approach to life, Rohmer had a voracious appetite for art, culture, and intellectual debate captured vividly in this definitive volume....
|Title||:||Éric Rohmer: A Biography|
|Format Type||:||Kindle Edition|
|Number of Pages||:||672 Pages|
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Éric Rohmer: A Biography Reviews
Like diving for pearls in the Sargasso Sea, at every turn your ankles snagged by coils of dank oily weed, this vast blathering tiresome but essential biography might choke even dedicated fans to death from lack of oxygen before they get to the last page. Ugh. These two authors are in permanent abstruse waffle mode and the two translators viciously thought they would pass the authors’ orotund vapourising into English with zero attempt to make it more readable. They are bad people and I hope they catch frequent colds this year. EXAMPLESBeyond the invocation of a god, or of absent gods, there is the contemplation of things as they are. Rohmer makes this contemplation the foundation of modern cinema. P177To be sure, we could discuss the gap between the logos and the libido, as it is manifested more obviously than ever in Frederic. We can recall that between the end of one filming and the writing of a new project, Rohmer accorded himself a long period of reverie (preferably associated with walking or with desultory conversation) that allowed him to gradually clarify the ideas he had in mind. P 441[My my, you don’t say so, what a novel way to work.]What is cinema, if not the hope of re-creating the link to the mother? P457In his “costume dramas” Rohmer offers a historical portrait of a way of seeing. He situates the spectator at the heart of the story by assuming the systems of representation chosen and meticulously reconstructed.P476BEING BORING ERICOkay, they have a tough job to do, because Eric Rohmer’s actual life was really boring.Regulated as it was by this logic of habit, Eric Rohmer’s life has almost no interest for the biographer! Without scandal or uncomfortable secrets, it was simple, tranquil, reassuring and no doubt dull; but certainly happy p127So, he was married at the age of 37 and that was that. Before the age of 37 he was a nerdy film critic, part time teacher and failed author. So this huge book is a careerography. The biographical stuff takes up about 20 pages. Eric was the patron saint of late career starters. He thought he wanted to be a novelist and published one novel – it sank like a stone. He got to direct his first feature in 1959, that also sank like a stone. He got fired as editor of his film magazine because they thought he was an old fart. Finally, at the age of 47, he made a second film La Collectionneuse and that was a hit. After that he didn’t stop. His last film was made when he was 87. STUBBORNLY COMMONPLACEThat’s a felicitous phrase from the book which sums up all of ER’s films to the point where they have been famously described as “like watching paint dry”. Middle-class French people (mostly those magnificent girls, see below) gab endlessly about themselves and their unsatisfactory but not actually especially distressing relationships in various stages of self-delusion and in beautifully photographed French locations until there’s a little tiny plot twist in the last 20 minutes and all is resolved. (He also skewers male self-delusion brilliantly.) These movies are gentle wry comedies full of social awkwardness and tepid affections; so soft that if anyone does have an argument, which is rare, your local librarian wouldn’t even notice it, wouldn’t even raise an eyebrow.People who can’t see the magic say that these films are extraordinarily narrow, that you never see a black person or an old person or a working class person in any of the 23 features. Well, that’s pretty much true. I don’t care. There are plenty of other good movies. TYPICAL QUOTE FROM AN ERIC ROHMER FILM“I think a lot about my thought.”THESE MAGNIFICENT GIRLS “To someone who asked him : ‘But how do you manage to have tea every day with these magnificent girls?’ he replied ‘My secret is absolute chastity.” To the point where in the brief nude scene in A Winter’s Tale he couldn’t bear to watch, he ducked out the back until it was done. Rohmer movies are all about the girls, which some might more accurately describe as women. There are one or two in every one of the 23 feature films, the films are all about them. etc etcUNIQUE WORKING METHODSHe used to meet people and think this guy or that woman would be exactly right for a part he had in mind. It didn’t matter if they were actors or not, if they had ever had the least idea of being in a movie. When he liked them enough he would have endless conversations with them and tape the conversations. Then he would put their own words and their own anecdotes into the script; so they were playing an amalgamation of Rohmer’s fictitious character and themselves. After he got famous, young actress wannabes would write to him all the time, and some of them did end up playing the lead in a movie he built entirely around them. Also, all his movies were very low budget and he never bothered to advertise them. He would just ring up various cinemas in Paris and say would you like to show my new movie? Then the word would get out that there was a new Rohmer movie and other cinemas would phone him up. Even his failures never lost any money. (OK, one did.) He never expected any of his movies to be popular, and when some of them were he was most surprised. By doing movies in this odd way he avoided 99.9% of the heartaches and hassles usually associated with making good movies. But the actors and crew were often pretty fed up to find they had to pay for their own meals when they were filming. ELUSIVE BUTTERFLYNone of his films will knock you out of your seat. Take another French director, Jean-Pierre Jeunet – he has a unique eye-goggling style and he’s made at least three ten-out-of-ten masterpieces. But Eric Rohmer’s films are true, they’re as aggravating, insufferable and amusing and endearing as people are; it’s inextricable. Five stars for this book as a celebration of a great artistTwo stars as a pretty ghastly reading experienceI guess averages out to three
The book was inspiring. It provided insight into an alternate style of filmmaking. His style was cerebral/transcendental, although it did include feelings. I was excited to know he had adapted a short story by Edgar Allen Poe, who is a personal favorite. I like Poe for the same reason, he is dealing with ideas, concepts, and transcending the ordinary world.Eric tried to conceal his involvement with film from his family at first, they thought it was beneath his literary gifts. Eric says he felt making films was pure poetry, the use of metaphors being the most enticing part.It was encouraging that much of his early work was heavily criticized, but it didn't bother him. He enjoyed that people were thinking and talking about his concepts. He focused on morality plays, trying never to be judgmental. Very simple ideas, like a man being seduced by another woman, but not surrendering to temptation, remaining true.
This is as good a biography as you are going to get out of someone as private as Rhomer. Antoine de Baecque, himself editor of Cahiers du Cinema, like Rohmer has a unique perspective on the struggles within the periodical that was the vehicle for the film criticism and then film directing career of Rohmer, the intellectual Dean of New Wave. It was interesting to read about his efforts at painting and his love of Matisse before turning to film. I enjoyed the quotes about making film 'classical'. I would have liked to see some excerpts of some of his more famous pieces in the book, like the one directing Eisenstein as an eye for form and composition. I felt like Baecque could not provide me with a guide to his intellectual/spiritual motivations, he could only point to the similarities between different films and the experiences of Rohmer and his friends. A Night at Maud's (with its Dinner with Andre soliloquy on Blaise Pascal) was a replay of Rohmer's own journey to marriage it seems. Claire's knee, a sanitized study of perversion, was written during his student days. An interesting evolution from ear to knee, like Hitchcock purses. Still, it was interesting to read about Rohmer's politics, conservationism and his love of running. I guess I will have to get some translations of Cahier's for the critical theory and watch Rossellini's Stromboli for the spiritual crisis.