“Whether you think that my films are good or bad, they have a value to one another that helps with understanding them,” stated legendary French director Eric Rohmer in a 2008 interview with the Independent. “The public often tell me that I make films that resemble each other and they are right, but it is normal because I am a complete auteur, that is someone who creates the film, looks at the subject and at the same time I am also the man who creates the image.”
The “complete auteur” who gave the world such films as “My Night at Maud’s,” “Claire’s Knee,” and the “Tales of Four Seasons” cycle died today in Paris at the age of 89, the BBC reports.
“Aesthetically, Mr. Rohmer was perhaps the most conservative member of the group of aggressive young critics who purveyed their writings for publications like Arts and Les Cahiers du cinema into careers as filmmakers beginning in the late 1950s,” writes Dave Kehr in the New York Times. “A former novelist and teacher of French and German literature, Mr. Rohmer emphasized the spoken and written word in his films at a time when tastes – thanks in no small part to his own pioneering writing on Alfred Hitchcock and Howard Hawks – had begun to shift from literary adaptations to genre films grounded in strong visual styles… In opposition both to the intensely personal, confessional tone of much of the work of Truffaut and the politically provocative films of Godard, Mr. Rohmer remained true to a restrained, rationalist aesthetic, close to the principles of the 18th-century thinkers whose words he frequently cited in his movies. And yet Mr. Rohmer’s work was warmed by an undercurrent of romanticism and erotic yearning, made perhaps all the more affecting for never quite breaking through the surface of his elegant, orderly films.”
“What was utterly characteristic was Rohmer’s feel for what the real life of a young person — albeit a certain type of middle-class, educated young person — was like: that is, not shiny and sexy or grungy or funny, in the Hollywood manner, but uncertain, tentative, vulnerable and more often than not dominated by a quotidian type of travel: bus travel, subway travel, train travel: travel to get somewhere for the summer, or to see a girlfriend or boyfriend,” writes Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian. “The cinema has lost a philosopher, a quiet rhetorician and a gentle ally of the young.”
Time Out London’s Geoff Andrew: “Until his death on Monday 11 January, I would often say that Eric Rohmer – born Jean-Marie Maurice Scherer almost 90 years earlier – was in my opinion one of the world’s two greatest living filmmakers. The claim would often be greeted with derision or, at the least, a raised eyebrow. But can you think of any other major body of film work that doesn’t include a single bad film? Rohmer really was different: he knew what he wanted to do when he started out as writer-director, and he stuck to it, stubbornly and gloriously. Whether it’s to one’s personal taste is neither here nor there.”
“To the casual American art-house patron of a certain age Rohmer’s most widely distributed pictures, beginning with ‘My Night at Maud’s’ (1969), ‘Claire’s Knee’ (1970) and ‘Chloe in the Afternoon’ (1972, and remade, uneasily, with Chris Rock as ‘I Think I Love My Wife’) crystallized an notion of piquant, verbally obsessive French cinema,” writes the Chicago Tribune’s Michael Phillips. “Rohmer’s men, chasing illusions of women as often as women in the flesh, were variations on a specific breed of sardonic romantic. His questing, moralizing protagonists acted as vessels for the filmmaker’s own observations of life, as he also wrote, where ‘there’s no clear-cut line of tragedy or comedy.'”
“If one person can rightly be called the father of the French New Wave, it’s Eric Rohmer,” declares the New Yorker’s Richard Brody.
“Rohmer’s films are famous for taking talkiness to extremes, and you can see his influence in movies by everyone from Woody Allen to Whit Stillman to Hong Song-soo to Andrew Bujalski,” notes Time Out Chicago’s Ben Kenigsberg while The Hollywood Reporter’s Duane Byrge observes that “his strength was in his capacity to depict human foibles and to capture a sense of time and place.”
Anne Thompson blogs: “Some of his films are the most pleasurable you can see, like drinking a fine wine. As we get older and watch his films again, ‘Chloe in the Afternoon,’ ‘The Aviator’s Wife’ and ‘Claire’s Knee’ are as rich and delightful now as when they came out.”
Eric Rohmer on IMDb.