A Summer's Tale

The easy charm and gentle humor of Eric Rohmer's movies can easily seem at odds with the grandiose design of his multi-film series, but the two couldn't be more compatible. "Six Moral Tales," "Comedies And Proverbs," and most recently "Tales Of The Four Seasons" all sound like projects of forbiddingly self-conscious profundity, but that ambition belies the instantly enjoyable films within. Instead of working from the top down, Rohmer uses the materials of everyday life to get at the profound. The new-to-video 1996 film A Summer's Tale (Conte d'Été), the third in Rohmer's "Four Seasons" series, uses two weeks at a seaside resort town—the sort of environment in which the demands of the real world can be kept at arm's length—to examine the ins and outs of young love as experienced by an introverted recent MA recipient (Melvil Poupaud) with designs on becoming a songwriter. Waiting for his girlfriend (Aurelia Nolin) to join him, he strikes up a friendship with a pretty waitress and ethnologist (Amanda Langlet) that grows increasingly difficult to define as Nolin's arrival becomes less imminent. Further complicating matters is the arrival of a third woman (Gwenaëlle Simon) whose aggressiveness matches the others' ambiguity. As usual, Rohmer's characters do far more talking about their feelings than acting upon them, but what they don't say, and what they don't yet have the vocabulary to say, is every bit as important. Poupaud may come off as callow and timid, and his songs as unformed as his personality, but Rohmer seems to suggest that his youthful mistakes will make him a better man, a typically generous, hopeful, and convincing sentiment in a disarmingly winning film.

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