Eric Rohmer 1920-2010

A great artist and a great critic. My New York Times obituary is here.

373 comments to Eric Rohmer 1920-2010

  • Barry Putterman

    Fredrik, Woody Allen has notoriously had trouble coming to terms with the inevitability of death. Nevertheless, he certainly spoke for me when he said, “I don’t mind dying. I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”

  • Junko Yasutani

    ‘One I’d love to see is Hugo Fregonese’s THE RAID.’

    Yes, that is good movie Fredrik. Fregonese is bringing special sensibility to civil war movie, it is reminding me of giri-ninjo conflict. Fregonese has also made other good movies.

  • Barry, he was a bit open minded though “There are worse things than death. Have you ever spent an evening with an insurance salesman?” Apparently he and Dorothy Parker didn’t see eye to eye on this one.

    Junko, I’ve only seen BLOWING WILD, which I like a lot. I have MAN IN THE ATTIC on a VHS tape, but I haven’t seen it yet. Do you have a favourite?

  • Tom Brueggemann

    It’s been a longtime, but Black Tuesday (1954), with Edward G. Robinson as a gangster on the run, seems to have been quite effective among Fregoneses I’ve seen.

  • Greetings, Dan Sallitt — great to see you here! I recognized your fine hand immediately in your acute, concentrated words on Bartlett.

    So I watched “The Silent Raiders,” which seemed to echo a lot of “A Walk in the Sun,” down to the semi-annoying use of a ballad to unify the action. I’ll reserve judgment until I’ve seen a few more of Bartlett’s pictures, but the co-feature on the disc, Joe Newman’s “Jungle Patrol,” is really quite remarkable — a “Dawn Patrol” variant set in a tiny Allied airbase in New Guinea, with most of the action taking place off-screen and relayed by the pilots’ cross-talk on the base radio.

    A single women, a USO entertainer (Kristine Miller) shows up in this all-male environment, occasioning not the expected comic frenzy of lust but an outbreak of yearning and courtliness, as each character in turn sees his own romantic history reflected in her. I’ve always found Newman’s defining stylistic trait to be an almost systematic lack of interest in his characters’ inner lives (quite effective in an action-existentialist piece like “711 Ocean Drive,” but problematical in some of his more naturalistic, drama-centered stuff), though this one goes in quite the opposite direction. It has an intimate, theatrical quality that reminded me of Whale’s “Journey’s End” more than anything else, but without Whale’s histrionics. I completely agree with Mike G — it’s the best Newman I’ve seen.

    There’s lots to say about Fregonese but I think it’s time to start a new thread.

  • david hare

    Colin your comments about Elephant’s AR, and by inference Last Days and Paranoid Park signal the problems that arise when the filmmaker feels he has to “protect” for widescreen. Rohmer’s remark about 1.66 not being too compromising is one thing, and it comes in a context in whcih a number of French filmmakers like Bresson were also reverting to 1.66 in the 70s. But the practice with the three van Sants, for instance has been to almost universally screen, and then release the DVD in the wider matted ratio. I find it ruinous, and especially for Paranoid Park, which might also be the least interesting of the three films, but the impact on Gus’ very “photographic” framing style (for want of a better term) reduces the compositional impact of PP considerably, I think.
    What’s equally maddening, if not more so, is the current practice by a couple of studios, but notably Universal, to re-issue all it’s “newer” (post 60s) movies for TV screenings now in ubiquitous 1.78. This is hardly damaging to movies shot or masked for 1.85, but they’re doing ti for their Scope titles as well, like Madigan and others and it’s just catastophic. The mentality seems to be that 1.78 (or 16:9) is the universal determinant for how things should be screened now, regardless of their original ratios. Totally mindless.

  • Barry Putterman

    We had a lively discussion of Fregonese not long ago that was spearheaded by Blake. Would that we could Google topics from this site.

    Now I’m off to have my say on the new page.

  • Kent Jones

    Mathieu,

    Forgive me, I was away and beyond reach of the internet.

    I must tell you that I didn’t find your post insulting. All I meant was that I just don’t think it’s a good way to address the reader. Of course, this is the “democratic” internet, where all barriers between debate, conversation, reading, writing and talking have been toppled. Which is where the problem begins…I guess. All that vile stuff that people spew about this or that film would obviously never find its way to the printed page.

    But then, why respond to it? You should not take it upon yourself to life the level of discourse – unthinking judgmentalism and rash, crass reflex responses have been with us for a long time, and they won’t be going away anytime soon. All you can do is assume that your reader is as intelligent as you are. That’s the best any of us can do. Assuming that they need to correct or even amend their viewing habits isn’t going to go down well. As I said, I have approached the task of criticism from this angle in the past, from time to time, and I just don’t think it’s a good idea.

    Regarding the idea of taking a second look, forgive me, but don’t you think all films merit being looked at again, even movies we might all agree are lousy? You can never describe a film well enough.

    I appreciate what you’re saying about Truffaut, but the polemical spirit of that criticism can be deceptive, because it’s tied to its age.

  • Blake Lucas

    Dave, I believe I was the one who spoke up for JUNGLE PATROL earlier, a film I’ve admired and seen a number of times and written on. I was really pleased to see you liked it so much and very much enjoyed reading your comments. I’m not sure Mike G. has seen that one yet but hope he will.

    I posted on Fregonese when he came up before–another director I love. And THE RAID is definitely my favorite–I was pleased to see Junko liked it. But I like most of his films and recently saw another very good one SEVEN THUNDERS on TCM. I hope he’ll be discussed more down the line.

    Interestingly, Fregonese and Bartlett did the same number of Universal-International films under contract–five each–though at opposite ends of the decade, and about comparably excellent as groups of films within one studio (hopefully the Western Channel will indeed show Fregonese’s SADDLE TRAMP as well as Bartlett’s JOE DAKOTA). But for Bartlett is was the peak for his theatrical work; Fregonese went on, not always easily, but more of his best films were still ahead.

  • Blake Lucas

    “Hardly anybody shot in 1.33 at the time.”

    Yes, I think I acknowledged this very point about Rohmer in my own post, as you and others have elaborated. I don’t know the answer re AR on DEEP END (though remember that excellent film vividly from several viewings in the 70s and sorry I missed it this time around.

  • Blake Lucas

    Again, re JUNGLE PATROL, for me it’s very close to his best for me–I only give the edge to THIS ISLAND EARTH. That’s available and as someone looking to see some Newman asked about it, I recommend both. The same sensibility is apparent. There’s a lot to value in his work generally and it’s nice to see such fine films as RED SKIES OF MONTANA mentioned, and FORT MASSACRE, just for example.

  • I just watched THE LADY AND THE DUKE earlier this evening and was really struck by the bold aesthetic. The movie has a strikingly “unfilm” look. Like with Jia’s and M. Mann’s recent films, Rohmer really embraces the hyperreality of video. LADY looks like it was shot on interlaced video as opposed to the closer-to-35mm-look of progressive video. Also – the lighting scheme of the picture calls attention to the videoness – the contrast ratio is often 1:1 and it doesn’t try and replicate the shadows of film, which most filmmakers working on HD or DV try to do.

    Not being familiar with contemporary French attitudes on the revolutionary past, I was wondering about whether Rohmer’s comments on the violence of the Revolution are seen as uncontroversial critiques or as anti-revolutionary. Do French critics, leftists and liberals see the film as reactionary? I just read a piece in Film Comment which claimed as much but was wondering if that was an isolated opinion. If anyone can offer insight it would be much appreciated.

  • Brian Dauth

    David: My copies of Van Sant’s films on dvd do have the 1:33 versions. I think what Van Sant captures if the sensual nature of trhe 1:33 AR, a sensuality that is less in 1:85.

  • david hare

    Yes Brian, his eye (and his DPs) are attuned to the air and the space surrounding his actors. Watching the “Trilogy” in 1.85, and then 1.37 is like experiencing totally different (and in the latter case inferior) films. The problem was Brian that outside the US all DVDs of the “trilogy” were released in 1.85 only. And both Last Days and PP screened theatrically ONLY in 1.85 here and – I understand – the UK. But not in France where MK2 also adhered to Academy ratio theatrical screenings and ditto for the DVDs. The UK BluRay of Elephant is also Academy, thank god. And gorgeous, too.

    And I simply can’t cope with these HD TV screenings here now of Scope movies – some of them big actioners or SciFi – in cropped 1.78. Don’t people care, or even notice?

  • smoritz

    What a great thread. I echo a lot of these sentiments. Rohmer bless him, if I were to ever write a screenplay I would study his films like Welles studied Stagecoach. What a great dialogue coach and all those useful beauties. I’d love to hear Paul Morrissey’s thoughts on Rohmer.

    And then to jump to Skolimowski’s Deep End. I saw this for the first time this year, what an extraordinary British proto-punk picture. Can there be such a genre? Performance, Deep End, any others?

    I also like The Walkover, which hasn’t been mentioned (sorry if it has), my favourite of his autobiographical movies. What a stud poet that guy.

  • Mathieu

    Just a quick note as I am pressed for time,

    Kent, I appreciate you response and can feel where you’re coming from. I guess sometimes the nature of these posts, as well as the time constraints I have in writing them makes for some nit-picking, where otherwise fully fleshed out film critiques put simply would be more warranted. As it stands, I haven’t gotten to fully embark on an ALPHA DOG review, and I don’t know when I’ll have the time next to do it. I guess, this decade in particular had me miffed about the round up lists and poll selections. I will certainly try in future to be more focused in my approach, and less explosive about outside reviews, and I hope to keep exchanging on these films in future. I have also yet to complete my list of the decade’s finest, will finally get to it in the next week, but have a feeling it will be quite different, that’s just how I viewed things these last ten years.
    But anyways, thanks for your levelheadedness on the issue, not always easy in film discussions!

    On a side note, anybody outside of NY get the new Film Comment yet? My regualar magazine stands here in Vancouver are still empty in that department.

  • Thanks for the welcome, Dave and J-P. I’m a big Fregonese fan too: The Raid seems to me the top title, but Blowing Wild, Apache Drums, Black Tuesday, Mark of the Renegade, Savage Pampas and Saddle Tramp are all memorable.

  • Brian Dauth

    David: I have never looked at the 1:85 versions (even though they are on the discs). Capturing the space around his characters is a Van Sant hallmark. The sense of movement is palpable and sensual. Van Sant even accomplishes some amazing sense of space in MILK in 1:85.

    As for people not caring: we live in degraded times.

  • Blake Lucas

    Hijacked from the next thread because it actually belonged here:

    Dan S., if you are reading, I want to say I personally appreciate that you posted here in support of both Bartlett and Fregonese.

  • Blake, my apologies for attributing your “Jungle Patrol” post to Mike. That was unforgivably sloppy of me.

  • Blake Lucas

    That’s no problem, Dave. I was so interested to read your what you wrote about it, because it may be the single film I ever championed without anyone I know ever having seen it. When someone like Dave Kehr likes it that much too, I kind of feel vindicated at last.

    If anyone sees it and has DEFINING MOMENTS IN MOVIES handy, the entry I wrote is on p. 184. Dave, I believe you would find it harmonious with your own view of the film.

  • As Blake says, I still haven’t seen Jungle Patrol. Have been eager to see it ever since Blake’s article in DEFINING MOMENTS IN MOVIES. But the film just hasn’t been available, till around one week ago.

  • Alex Hicks

    Dana Stevens’ Post of Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2010, at 5:56 PM, on Rohmer provides an interesting complement to Dave K.’s finbe obituary –and ties up with Dave’ s latest NYT’s piece on Rosselini, right where Dave’s leaves off, with the following:

    “… Rohmer, a Jesuit-educated Catholic who claimed to have had a conversion experience while watching Rossellini’s Stromboli…”,