REVIEW: Conversations in Rohmer Vol. 3 (L'amour, l'aprés-midi, 1972)

"Conversations in Rohmer" is a three-part discussion held between myself and kiddo in space (who shares a name with my Final Fantasy XI character, coincidentally enough) as part of The Corrierino's Welcome to the Abyss thread run by Philosophe rouge and LEAVES. The premise: partners select a director with whose work they are both unversed - in this case, Éric Rohmer - then select and view three of that director's films. Following each viewing, a conversation is held via private message so to prevent veteran viewers of the director in question from weighing in from a more experienced vantage.

tom: Well, fresh off the mention of recurring vacation settings, here we are in the thick of Paris' business class. Frédéric, another self-absorbed male, is in a more traditional, daily routine with a wife and child at home. He does, however, deviate from the grind in his afternoons, fantasizing about women who pass on the street. Each main character we've explored through these discussions has been relatable to relatively less admirable aspects of my own being. Thereby each film has seen me, to an extent, examining myself. L'amour, l'aprés-midi connected the most.

Throughout the film's majority I found myself forgiving Frédéric, perhaps due to the uncomfortable kinship I felt. He gets thrills flirting with potential mistresses, seemingly using this adrenaline rush to enhance his domestic love life. He even prides himself on being able to resist temptation. He is very aware of the danger. I don't consider myself desiring or even capable of the lengths Frédéric goes to, but I found it easy to rationalize his actions.

Something I've pondered regarding all three films has been Rohmer's overall aim. Does he have a finite moral he's illustrating, or is he simply cajoling us into considering our own moral set? I'd wager both, really. With each film's final moments there does seem a solid message, but as L'amour, l'aprés-midi showed, it's not so cut and dry up until that point. Of course, it's easier to call something cut and dry from the fly-on-the-wall perspective Rohmer takes. We are allowed to think of these characters as we will and without being coerced to feel a certain way, the moral decisions often seem clear. L'amour, l'aprés-midi even featured a motif of people-watching.

kiddo: About the moral aspect you mention, I think Rohmer appeals to our morality. With each tale he represents a specific case (the finite moral you refer to, I think) but this doesn't mean is only about the situation being represented, it appeals to our own moral, it represents the "nature" of human beings, how we act when in certain situations and the use of our own moral and behavior. To me Rohmer doesn't only makes a character study in his movies, but a study of human behavior. 

You yourself said it in the first paragraph: while examinng the character you were examining yourself. Here the character escapes from his ordinary everyday life when a woman from the past comes back, would we do the same if we had a chance? It's implied (or at least seemed to me) that Frédéric's wife did the same, she also took a chance. 

Sadly, I didn't find this movie as fascinating as the other two.

t: You make very good points about the nature of Rohmer's morality. I do love how Rohmer's characters are so fully fleshed out. They feel like real people. Really real people. I think many filmmakers create more vague character "types" so the audience can project themselves into the film and imbue their own thoughts and moralities... but I'm finding it just as easy and even more effective to reflect while watching someone who is authentically their own character.

I agree, it is implied that Frédéric's wife may have played with fire just as Frédéric did. This could easily be explained away as Chloé being overly suggestive as an act of desperation in her seduction... but it is just as possible that Chloé is on to something when she points out the wife on a stroll with a strange gentleman.

I read somewhere Rohmer abolished narration for Le genou de Claire because he felt it was too... overbearing, I think. Interesting he'd bring it back for this sixth and final moral tale. Often I feel narration is unnecessary, and simply tells the audience in a more straight-forward manner what they would already be seeing and interpreting for themselves in possibly more interesting ways. I do love Rohmer's use of narration here, though, as Frédéric's innermost thoughts are incredibly intriguing and relatable.

I do wonder what I may be missing due to such deep immersion into these movies. Through these films more than any others I've been developing somewhat of a distaste for musical scores. I'm not about to tromp around movie studios demanding scores be abolished, but in watching certain other films I've been finding them a bother. I prefer to be with my own thoughts about a film as opposed to being coerced to emote one way or another regarding the on-screen happenings. That said, I'm not sure I even noticed L'amour, l'aprés-midi's lack of score until looking up further information about its production and reading that, aside from the music over the opening titles (reminiscent of A Clockwork Orange, I thought). Clearly the decision to not score the film was an effective one, as creating film is very much about the illusion of seamlessness and I was never once jarred or bored by the absence of music.

It's too bad you weren't as into this one as the other two, although it is understandable - it is rather different. From the sounds of it, though, you made a connection similar to mine here to Le genou de Claire (or "An Éric Rohmer Joint", as I've come to call it), so good on you! Since our last communication (ed. note: due to the filming of Scream Until You're Hoarse and college exams, respectively, kiddo and I took time off following the first two communications) I have actually re-watched this one close to six times. I have no doubt it will be a prominent shower next time I assemble a top 100 list... it could even be - dare I say it - a top 10 contender!

kI see Rohmer's characters more as a reflection - with his characters, he makes us look at ourselves (not individualy, but as humans), not to become them, or project into the character, because the character is no one but itself and what he or she represents, I think that way, instead of just looking at what we are (here I mean individualy), we look at what we are as a whole, as humans. Certainly, we can identify with some characters, because the situations they go through and the way they act can be like what your or I would do. It happens.

About the score, I agree with you, the lack of it gives more power to the scene, lets them speak for themselves, it takes away distractions, gives us more time with what's going on.

At first, when we started all this, I had my doubts with Rohmer, his films didn't seem very attractive to me, but I kept telling myself, "This is about discovering new directors and new films, go on, go on!" Rohmer has a very particular style of filmmaking, some may find him boring (at some point I thought I would), with all the dialogue and slowness of his movies. That's the point, to let the film talk by itself. Such great movies.

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