Thursday, August 28, 2008

Film Review: Four Adventures of Reinette and Mirabelle

"Four Adventures of Reinette and Mirabelle" *** (out of ****)

Eric Rohmer is one of my all-time favorite filmmakers. I cannot be expected to hide my appreciation for his work. Never quite as daring as some of his contemporaries such as Jean-Luc Godard or Francois Truffaut, Rohmer went in a different direction. Where Godard was more political, Rohmer is more romantic.

That romance has caused several in the public and film critics to condemn Rohmer's work. He is often described as making films "too talky". The characters have long conversations regarding their feelings on love. They debate with themselves and with others.

Rohmer has made several masterpieces over his long career including "My Night At Maud's", "Chloe in the Afternoon", "The Aviator's Wife", "Pauline at the Beach" and the entire "Tales of Four Seasons" series. Sadly "Four Adventures of Reintette and Mirabelle" doesn't live up to those films. It is charming but a slight piece of work.

So why review this film as my first Rohmer review and why isn't it quite as good as some of Rohmer's other films? The answer to the first question is easier than you might think. I just saw this film recently for the first time. So it is fresh on my mind. The second question is a bit tricky.

The film follows two girls. If the title of the film didn't give it away their names are Reinette (Joelle Miguel) and Mirabelle (Jessica Forde). Reinette lives in the country. She loves nature. She is a painter and is in several ways naive. She is not use to fast paced city life. She says she admires self-discipline and has a firm set of beliefs that not only she must follow but others must live up to as well. Mirabelle is the more city smart of the two. She has a more carefree attitude.

The two girls meet when Mirabelle gets a flat tire on her bike and Reinette offers to help her repair it since she lives down the deserted road. An immediate friendship is formed. When Reinette tells Mirabelle her plans to attend an art school in Paris, Mirabelle suggest she come live with her.

The film is four short stories (or adventures if you prefer) titled; "Blue Hour", "The Waiter", "The Beggar, the Kleptomaniac, the Hustler" and "Selling the Picture". Only the "Blue Hour" takes place in the country. All four in theory are suppose to offer some life lesson. Though I think the lessons are one-sided. It seems to be Reinette who learns the most. She learns about the city and how people can manipulate you if you are not careful. Mirabelle's only lesson comes in "Blue Hour" about enjoying nature and to learn the importance of silence.

This leads to why I don't think the film is as successful as it could have been. I enjoy it greatly when Rohmer's characters talk about love and dating. Their words strike so many right chords it feels as if you are part of the conversation. Here though the characters are not discussing love. There is no flirtation, no disappointment of love, no search. "Four Adventures" doesn't seem to examine the characters as closely as I would have liked.

Rohmer's films I think are only as good as his characters are interesting. When I say "My Night at Maud's" is a masterpiece it is because I love the characters and want to spend time with them. I take delight in their delight. When I refer to a film such as this or "Summer" as a lesser Rohmer film, it is because I don't warm up to the characters as much.

But because Rohmer's films have an undeniable charm sometimes it makes it hard to resist. "Four Adventures" has some good moments. It has some interesting conversations concerning art and nature. The performance given by the two ladies are entertaining but I was disappointed Mirabelle didn't have more screen time. As I said, Reinette is the one who learns the most (the idea behind the film was Joelle Miguel's). But while most of the life lessons are aimed at her I don't think she grows. Reinette is the same person at the beginning of the film as she is at the end. I found that somewhat frustrating.

Roger Ebert once said anyplace is a good place to start your Rohmer viewing experience. I disagree. While there are a large number of great films to start your collection a film such as this one is not a good place. This is for the devoted Rohmer fan. It is for them I recommend this picture.

There has been a sad rumor circulating that Rohmer's latest film "Romance of Astree and Celadon" may be his last film. It will have a limited run in New York.