Les Contes Secrets ou les Rohmériens English 2 articles
by Bruce Perkins , Senses of Cinema April 2010
C. Les Contes Secrets ou les Rohmériens (2005)
Marie Binet is an experienced filmmaker, specialising in modern art and painters. Some 20-odd years after working for Rohmer, she had the idea of producing a documentary on him, based on the reminiscences of his actors.
The 16 who are included here are: Féodor Atkine, Marie-Christine Barrault, Jean-Claude Brialy, Florence Darel, Arielle Dombasle, André Dussollier, Françoise Fabian, Pascal Greggory, Amanda Langlet, Melvil Poupaud, Serge Renko, Marie Rivière, Rosette, Béatrice Romand, Jean-Louis Trintignant and Zouzou.
These include both those highly successful away from Rohmer (for example, Brialy, Dombasle, Luchini and Trintignant), and other particular favourites who have appeared several times for him (Rosette, Rivière, Renko and Langlet). We are lucky to have Brialy’s contribution secured before his death in 2007. The youngest here is Poupaud (born 1973), but the reactions of yet younger actors can be found elsewhere on the web and in film magazines.
Binet concentrates on the notion of ‘Secrets’, which characterise Rohmer’s life and his characters. Each of the seven sections is introduced with a Rohmer voice-over.
Part I: The Lie
« Le mensonge est très intéressant pour l’intrigue … le mensonge est plus essentiel au cinéma qu’au théâtre » (“The lie is very interesting in creating the plot…it’s more important in films than in the theatre”). Some of his most prominent liars are Isabelle in Conte d’automne (An Autumn Tale, 1998), Jérôme in Le genou de Claire (Claire’s Knee, 197o) and Fiodor in Triple Agent (2004).
Part II: A Panoply of Human Failings
“On peut trouver tous les péchés du monde à mes acteurs” (“You can find all the world’s sins in my actors”). Speaking of L’amour l’après-midi (Love in the Afternoon, 1972), Zouzou has no doubts about one sin: Frédéric returns to his wife rather than go through with an act of adultery he may regret for the rest of his life. Rohmer disowns adultery, she claims, though Haydée in La collectionneuse (1967) and Marion in Pauline at the Beach have other ideas about sexual mores.
Part III: Rohmer’s Notion of Morality
He speaks of “… la peinture du cœur humain” (“a portrait of the human heart”). The original French sense of ‘la morale’ was more concerned with an examination of human nature than with passing ethical judgements. Rohmer says his characters obey rules imposed by others (society) or by themselves.
Part IV: Waiting and Other Games
« Mes films peignent des gens dans un état d’attente » (“My films portray people in a state of waiting”) – Gaspard (A Summer Tale), Jérôme (Claire’s Knee), Delphine (The Green Ray/Summer) are but three striking examples of this characteristic, though each responds to it in a different way.
Part V : Talk-talk
«Dans mes films il y a de la conversation, c’est délibéré . On m’a reproché de faire trop parler mes personnages. Et oui, c’est délibéré chez moi » (“There is conversation in my films, it’s deliberate. I’m accused of making my characters talk too much. Yes, it’s deliberate on my part”). Significantly, Françoise Fabian comments on the very positive response of people of widely different backgrounds to the discussions in Ma nuit chez Maud (My Night at Maud’s, 1969) when it was first shown. All three lead actors, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Françoise Fabian and Marie-Christine Barrault speak lucidly about the implications and influences of this keynote film.
Part VI: Religion and Other Matters
“La religion m’inspire, il est normal que la religion soit dans mes films.” (“Religion inspires me, it’s normal that religion appears in my films.”) He claims not to be an apologist for religion, merely a commentator on it; it is treated in some of his films, not in others.
Part VII: Can We See Rohmer in His Characters?
Both Pascal Greggory (in Pauline at the Beach) and Melvil Popaud (in A Summer’s Tale) felt strongly that they were portraying Rohmer in their roles. More than one actor has admitted to imitating his voice and gestures on screen. Béatrice Romand claims that he reveals himself solely through his films, leaving his private life strictly excluded from public gaze.
Some of us will enjoy seeing how favourite actors from the past have withstood the passage of time; most of them triumphantly well. In their comments they cover a wide range of topics beyond the simple theme of secrecy. But above all, they impress us with their intelligence and wit, the very essence of a Rohmer actor.
One major asset of this DVD is its excellent subtitles in English. These are a godsend for anyone not totally at home with the French language. But one disadvantage: it is not (yet) available on the open market.
by Bruce Perkins , Senses of Cinema April 2010
Eric Rohmer is one of the best-respected filmmakers in the history of the French cinema, as well as among the most elusive. Notoriously reluctant to talk about his own work, Rohmer rarely sits for filmed interviews, but documentary filmmaker Marie Binet has taken another route to gain a perspective on the director's working methods in this feature. Les Contes Secrets ou les Rohmeriens features interviews with 16 actors who have appeared in Rohmer's films, and they talk on camera about his unusual working methods, his personality, and his spare but evocative signature style. Among the thespians who share their memories are Jean-Louis Trinitignant, Marie-Christine Barrault, Zouzou, Jean-Claude Brialy, Béatrice Romand, Françoise Fabian, and Andre Dussolier; the film also includes rare footage of Rohmer himself at work on the set of his 1978 effort Perceval. Les Contes Secrets ou les Rohmeriens received its North American premiere at the 2005 New Montreal Film Festival. ~ Mark Deming, All Movie Guide