A Tale of Springtime (1990; Eric Rohmer)
A Summer’s Tale (1996; Eric Rohmer)
By Daniel Barnes
*Now playing in the Roxie Virtual Cinema and BAMPFA.
A Tale of Springtime is the first film in French auteur Eric Rohmer‘s Tales of the Four Seasons series, currently presented in a 2K restoration by Roxie Virtual Cinema. Ever the mercurial one, Rohmer followed Springtime with Winter. Add in some sloppy research and a looming deadline, and here I am reviewing the first and third films in the cycle.
Of course, these films aren’t The Bourne Phenology. The plots are slim, and any shared-universe concept is purely theoretical and textural. However, both A Tale of Springtime and A Summer’s Tale present the same essential story: a cerebral loner away from home makes a deep but fleeting connection with an intriguing stranger. In the end, both protagonists return to their normal lives, possibly unchanged, possibly never the same.
Springtime examines the relationship between philosophy teacher Jeanne (Anne Teyssèdre) and young pianist Natacha (Florence Darel). Stuck between apartments, Jeanne attaches to Natacha and finds herself caught in the middle of the girl’s complex father-daughter dynamics.
On the Dare Daniel Podcast, I frequently complain about films that emphasize plot over story. Both Springtime and Summer keep their stories sparse and simple, but Rohmer finds endless complexities in the characters and their relationships. At Cahiers du Cinema, Rohmer was known for his philosophical style, posing questions more than making declarations. You can feel that same lightly inquisitive, semi-detached yet quietly provocative touch here.
As for A Summer’s Tale, the story of a pretentious, college-aged loner in the mid-1990s who vacillates between romantic apathy and clumsily falling for any cute girl who shows an interest hits too close to home for me to feign any rational detachment. Sufficed to say that I winced in recognition more times than I cared to count.