REVIEW: DVD Release: Rendez-vous In Paris

Film: Rendez-vous In Paris
Release date: 10th May 2010
Certificate: 15
Running time: 94 mins
Director: Eric Rohmer
Starring: Clara Bellar, Antoine Basler, Mathias Megard, Michael Kraft, Judith Chancel
Genre: Drama/Romance
Studio: Artificial Eye
Format: DVD
Country: France

This film has been released alongside the Essential Eric Rohmer DVD box set to celebrate the great director’s work, and will be welcomed by his fans as a worthy tribute to one of the most famous of French filmmakers.

Three romantic encounters make up the dramatic content of the film, linked by brief musical interludes from typically, or it might be said stereotypically Parisian musicians. In the first, ‘Rendezvous At 7 O’clock’, a young woman (Clara Bellar) agonizes over rumours that her boyfriend is two-timing her, and through the introduction of a third party, who returns her stolen purse, she is led into a revelation that will influence her future actions.

The second of the triptych of stories, ‘The Benches Of Paris’, takes us on a guided tour of many Parisian beauty spots with two teachers (Aurore Rauscher and Serge Renko), who are engaged in a platonic but highly romantic love affair. She claims to be in a loveless relationship with another man; her lover waits patiently (almost implausibly so) while she ponders what she will do, if or when she leaves her long term partner. Will she turn to the long suffering teacher, or not? When the decision is eventually made to consummate the affair, by pretending to be tourists and book in to a Paris hotel, the sight of another guest causes a swift change of plan – and of heart.

Finally, in ‘Mother And Son 1907’, we witness a prolonged flirtation between an artist (Michael Kraft) and a young woman (Benedicte Loyen) he encounters in an art gallery. The artist pursues the girl down the street, and, after engaging her in conversation, they end up in his studio, not so much looking at the paintings as having a positively philosophical discussion about attraction and love. Can he win over the girl he has fallen for so quickly?

This is a beautifully mannered film, peopled with good-looking, young, romantic individuals who all seem to be either students, professionals, or involved in the world of fine art. There is an assumption by Rohmer that his viewing audience will understand all the references to Picasso, Surrealism, Cubism and the graves of famous illustrators, and he is probably right to make that assumption. Similarly, there are classical allusions in the script which reinforce the cultured and sophisticated atmosphere. There is also something of a very gentle Moliere comedy about the film, with turns of plot and elegant speeches by the characters that somehow seem almost incongruously polite in a modern setting, yet underlying these are some potentially unpleasant situations – two timing partners, break-ups and suspicion. It is Rohmer’s lightness of touch, both as director and script writer, which keeps it from falling over into torment and angst, but one is aware that the possibility is there.

Special mention has to be given to the use of Paris as a backdrop; we see numerous lovely shots of the city, both intimate in the market and park scenes, and wider ranging, with panoramas of the city. The only criticism here is that so many well known sites are used it can be distracting.

Time plays a big part in the film, too, especially in the first story. There are many references to the passage of time, dates and assignations, to the point where it is almost but not quite over played - in fact, Rohmer treads a fine line throughout the film, for example with the mannered performances (had these been overplayed, they could easily have disintegrated into pastiche, and it has to be Rohmer’s handling of the cast that has achieved this successful balance in the performances).

Despite this rather arty feel to the film and dialogue, there is another side to it. The viewer is almost an eavesdropper to the events in the film, following the characters through the market, almost bumping into them in the street as they stop abruptly to talk or embrace, so it is naturalistic despite the politeness.

Rohmer has allowed the background noises to stay at their normal level, which again adds to the sense of realism, but some may find it rather distracting; in the third story, one can clearly hear the whirr of the film camera as in the supposed silence of his studio, the artist paints his picture.

This film may not be one of Rohmer’s very best, but it is nonetheless charming, easy to watch on a superficial level and yet generous enough in its themes to allow for speculation on a deeper level. A safe choice for the beginner to the world of Rohmer, and sure to please his many ardent fans. GR

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