For Reel

Autumn Tale (1998)
November 27, 2015, 5:44 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Eric Rohmer
4.5 Stars
Autumn TaleA vineyard in southern France serves as a prominent location in Autumn Tale, the last of Eric Rohmer’s “Tales of the Four Seasons” and a late-career masterpiece. It will become the setting where Isabelle (Marie Riviera), a happily married woman, will make the decision to help her widowed best friend, Magali (Beatrice Romand), find love once again. The presence of idyllic landscapes is common in Rohmer’s films, and here it fulfills multiple purposes–to develop a sense of realism in the natural setting, as a metaphor for aging (the lonesome Magali doubts if certain vintages will age well), and the place where the farce will first find its footing, with Isabelle’s participation in Magali’s love life eventually involving a series of coincidences and confused identities. While Rohmer’s visual style is often linked with realist directors, his narrative disposition tends to favor the classic Hollywood style, dependent on contrivances and artificiality. Writing for Senses of Cinema, critic Fiona Villella argues that this is the grounds for Rohmer’s sense of magical realism, where Rohmer, “combines (and achieves a balance between) this textured and materialistic mode of filmmaking […] with a Hollywood-style narrative transparency.” Autumn Tale could be seen as a companion piece to Rohmer’s earlier masterpiece The Green Ray in that both films concern themselves with loneliness, however whereas that film involves one hopeless romantic’s (played by Riviera) isolation from the world and her struggle to find meaningful companionship, Autumn Tale suggests that cultivating a love affair is almost mathematical, something that, like the production of wine, involves both a practical manufacturing and a certain level of artisanship.

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