Summer's Tale, A (1996)

Review #1,369

Director:  Eric Rohmer
Cast:   Melvil Poupaud, Amanda Langlet, GwenaĆ«lle Simon, Aurelia Nolin
Plot:  A shy maths graduate takes a holiday in Dinard before starting his first job.  He hopes his sort-of girlfriend will join him, but soon strikes up a friendship with another girl working in town.  She in turn introduces him to a further young lady who fancies him. 

Genre:  Drama / Romance
Awards:  Nom. for Un Certain Regard (Cannes)
Runtime:  113min
Rating:  PG for some mature themes
International Sales:  Les Films du Losange

“Since no one loves me, I don't love anyone.”

The films of Eric Rohmer have eluded me for years, so what a fantastic opportunity to clock my first Rohmer with A Summer’s Tale, with editor Mary Stephen present for a post-screening dialogue.  Stephen, who edited the director’s late career works, spoke about how the film was shot and edited, and remarked that it was one of Rohmer’s most personal works, based on a screenplay that he wrote when he was in his twenties. 

A Summer’s Tale centers on a young math graduate, Gaspard, who is temporarily residing in Dinard, a beach town, before he starts his first job.  Shy and introverted, but feeds off well with anyone with the right vibes, he awaits his girlfriend Lena from overseas to accompany him.  Days go by without news, and smitten by two new girls (Margot and Solene) that he inadvertently met, Gaspard spends time with each separately, musing about love and life.

Rohmer lays bare the romantic complications of a young man and three women with consummate skill, turning the film from a ‘which girl would he pick?' conundrum to a poetic, free-flowing treatise on relationships and connections. The film is shot in a naturalistic and minimalist style, expressing an organic, unhurried and unrehearsed quality. 

It has long stretches of dialogue that unfold and are performed with effortless ease by the cast, reminiscent of Richard Linklater's ‘Before' (1995, 2004, 2013) trilogy, which could have been inspired by the Rohmer-esque conversational style that has been a hallmark of his brand of cinema for decades.  The characters walk along the beach, pathways and the streets, seemingly carefree and revelling in their youth, but they also indulge in their emotional insecurities.  

One may accuse A Summer’s Tale of being circular, meandering and ambiguous, and its day-by-day storytelling structure (Rohmer makes it explicit by breaking up each day with an intertitle calendar) can feel rote.  But this is a film whose sum is more than its parts, and articulates deftly the uncertainty of loving someone—and being loved in return.  Yet, stripped of its themes of romance and connection, Rohmer’s work is also about embracing the future as life charts its own course.

Verdict:  The romantic complications of a young man and three women are laid bare in this naturalistic and minimalist entry in Rohmer’s ‘Tale of the Four Seasons’ series.


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Rohmer's editor Mary Stephen in a post-screening dialogue at Objectifs (Singapore)



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