Summer/The Green Ray by Rohmer

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Summer/The Green Ray by Rohmer

Postby howardschumann(d) » Thu Feb 09, 2006 5:11 pm

SUMMER (Le Rayon Vert)

Directed by Eric Rohmer (1986)

"You don't have to go looking for love when it's where you come from" - Werner Erhard

We have been conditioned as a culture to believe that happiness lies in an ideal, future state. For example, we think it will all turn out when we finish school, when we get a job, when we get married, when we have children, then when we get divorced, or when we retire. It is always something or someplace more, better, or different but the more things change, the more they seem to remain the same. In Summer, aka The Green Ray, one of Eric Rohmer's most insightful and charming films, Delphine (Marie Riviere) is a young, intelligent, and good-looking Parisian secretary who has spent her life looking for "Mr Right". Like many who spend their life "searching", she is a perfectionist who keeps people away by maintaining impossible standards, then feels inadequate and unloved when things do not work out. She is interesting rather than interested.

When vacation time comes, her girlfriend goes to Greece with a boyfriend and she is left alone and feeling rejected. Turning down an offer to visit Ireland with her sister's family, she decides to take a trip to Cherbourg with a friend and her boyfriend, and does her best to fit in but it only leads to more frustration. After her friends prepare an elaborate dinner she tells them that she doesn't meat, seafood, or eggs and prefers vegetables like lettuce because they make her feel "light". She won't go sailing because it makes her seasick and she refuses a gift of apple blossoms because she thinks it's wrong to tear such large branches from trees. Rohmer impeccably captures Delphine's intense loneliness, a feeling of isolation that is even more pronounced when the people around you are doing what they think will make you happy. Near tears, she returns to Paris after only a few days in Cherbourg, then visits the Alps thinking she will go mountain climbing but she stays only one day.

When Delphine borrows a friend's apartment in Biarritz, however, she does settle down long enough to unpack. In Biarritz, the story is pretty much the same, however. Delphine says that she wants to meet people but when the opportunity arises in the form of two young men and Lena (Carita), a young Swedish blond, she runs the other way, although from all indications, leaving seems to be the most sensible option. Lena advises her to play cat and mouse with men. "It's like a card game", she says, "you can't reveal your hand right off". Delphine uses this piece of advice as another reason for beating herself up. "My hand is empty", she declares.

Delphine doesn't seem to believe in much, but, like many lonely people, she looks for signs that things are going to turn out all right. She is fascinated with playing cards and when she finds a green card lying in the street, she knows that green is her color of destiny for this year. While strolling the beach at Biarritz she overhears a conversation about a Jules Verne novel about an atmospheric phenomenon known as the Green Ray and she is mesmerized. According to Verne, just before the sun sets below the horizon, if you can see a burst of green light, it will help allow you gain an insight into your true self.

A synopsis of the plot, however, tells us little about what actually goes on in this mostly improvised film. Like most Rohmer works, what happens in the silences is more revealing than in the conversations. An entire world is written in the gestures, the facial expressions, and the nuances that reveal each character's personality. Summer is an intimate story of a woman's loneliness that rings true and brought back a flood of painful memories for me. Delphine, for all her warts, is very human. Somewhere up ahead always looks better than right here. When she can open herself up to the perfection of the moment, however, she becomes directly present to the world and can share its ineffable beauty.

GRADE: A
howardschumann(d)
 


Re: Summer/The Green Ray by Rohmer

Postby Johndav » Fri Mar 24, 2006 7:17 pm

Strange i'd not noticed this here before- i can't have spent much time on this board.

I absolutely love The Green Ray. It's true that Delphine is too sensitive, perfectionist and introspective, finding it hard to enjoy life at all frivolously, but instead wanting above all to live up to a romantic ideal. I had certain similar shy-idealist faults and qualities myself when younger (though thankfully not to that extent) so i took to her character, whereas i know some find her irritating. The film had very mixed reactions when screened at our film society a few years ago at my suggestion. Some find Rohmer films too full of dialogue, believing erroneously they're therefore uncinematic. In fact, Rohmer is a master at subtle expression of emotions through the surroundings (the film reminds occasionally of Rossellini's Voyage to Italy, a big influence on him and other Cahiers du Cinema critics turned director) and small gestures + movements.

I like the improvised feel very much; it makes the film seem all the more realistic and engaging. The vegetarianism discussion for instance is clearly improvised, with Marie Riviere inhabiting her character.

I love the ending, which is as uplifting a single moment as cinema has to offer, a resounding OUI.

My wife loves the film too, so you can imagine our delight when we saw the ray together one evening on holiday at Aruba, all the better for previous evenings' dashed hopes and lowered expectations. 2 other couples saw it with us, so it was no mirage or mere wishful thinking. My dad failed to see it on ship to + from India when younger; a rare phenomenon indeed. So for us, an Afterlife (single most precious memory) moment. There's a bookshop in a village in Normandy called the Green Ray: a pity it was shut when we passed through! Still, we live not far from where A Summer's Tale was filmed. Which also brings me back to Rohmer's feel for the seasons. I doubt if anyone has captured the light fresh charm of Summer as well. And as with Claire's Knee and My Girlfriend's Boyfriend, he makes excellent use (sometimes symbolic or reflecting relationships) of colour.
Johndav
 

Re: Summer/The Green Ray by Rohmer

Postby howardschumann(d) » Fri Mar 24, 2006 7:47 pm

Thanks for your wonderful insights. It is indeed a lovely film, the kind of film you want to share with those close to you. Haven't seen the ray as yet but I'll keep looking. Maybe one day I will be able to visit France during summertime.
howardschumann(d)
 

Re: Summer/The Green Ray by Rohmer

Postby Johndav » Fri Mar 24, 2006 9:38 pm

Well i don't know if France will be the best place for ray-spotting, cos i know they had enough trouble seeing it for the film! Conditions do have to be just right.

I'm quite a Rohmer fan; i like almost all the films i've seen by him. My Girlfriend's Boyfriend is another charmer (the young female protagonist is if anything even more sympathetic and not quite so flawed, though still squite shy). A Summer's Tale was filmed near here in Brittany, at Dinard (but a terrible place for trying to find parking). I'm not sure where in Brittany the film Pauline at the Beach, which also stars Amanda Langlet, when younger, was filmed. Rohmer has a knack of picking young women i like very much, and then finding the right guy for them too!
Johndav
 

Re: Summer/The Green Ray by Rohmer

Postby howardschumann(d) » Sat Mar 25, 2006 7:13 am

I loved Pauline at the Beach and was wondering which Rohmer to see next but you've given me a few ideas.
howardschumann(d)
 

Re: Summer/The Green Ray by Rohmer

Postby wpqx » Sun Mar 26, 2006 2:21 am

I've just picked up La Collectioneusse and Full Moon in Paris, so perhaps we can get a Rohmer thread going. I've only seen 5 or 6 films so far, so I'm hardly an expert. Did see Summer/The Green Ray and can't say I was as overly impressed as you all seem to be. Most of his films wind up coming about even to me, I'm yet to be overwhelmed by any of them, just as I don't believe I've seen a masterpiece from Claude Chabrol either.
wpqx
 

Re: Summer/The Green Ray by Rohmer

Postby madhuban » Fri Apr 21, 2006 6:09 am

I think Rohmer takes a little getting used to, and more importantly, a second viewing. Compared to his more flmboyant colleagues from the nouvelle vague, his films are hallmarks of understatement that you are invited to read and decipher. His films possess a curious literary quality. Rohmer himself has said that his films are closer to the novel. His self-fashioning is that of a writer because he published the Moral Fables as stories before making the films, besides translating onto film Kleist's "Die Marquise von O" Chretien's "Perceval le Gallois". This connect with literature is crucial, I think, to appreciating Rohmer. The seemingly endless conversations (most of them might seem trivial) that his characters indulge in, begin to make sense only if you map them within this larger literary structure of the classical novel. Most of the films are slices cut out of a longer narrative continuum (part of the reason why they have an axiomatic quality), and one is supposed to see the slice as illuminating the continuum. What I find most engrossing, however, are the constant journeys between the city and the country that the characters make, and the corresponding rites of passage that are implied. But, I'm a Rohmer convert!

M
madhuban
 

Re: Summer/The Green Ray by Rohmer

Postby howardschumann(d) » Tue Apr 25, 2006 3:15 pm

What are your favorite Rohmer films?
howardschumann(d)
 

Re: Summer/The Green Ray by Rohmer

Postby wpqx » Wed Apr 26, 2006 1:32 pm

I definitely get a sense that his films are based in the novel. The narration in La Collectioneusse reads just like a first person narrative in a novel, which might be one of the reasons why the film doesn't work as well as a book of the same subject might.
wpqx
 

Re: Summer/The Green Ray by Rohmer

Postby madhuban » Wed Apr 26, 2006 3:09 pm

@ Howard

Difficult to pick from an oeuvre that tantalises me, but "Claire's Knee", "Green Ray", "La Collectionneuse", "My Night at Maud's", "Full Moon in Paris", "A Good Marriage" and "Autumn Tale" (I'm simply fond of Beatrice Romand! Nobody agrees with me, perhaps, but I find her very attractive!) are special. I am yet to watch the Rohmer segment in "Paris vu par", a number of his early films leading up to the moral tales, as well as "The Lady and the Duke" and "Triple Agent".
"Perceval" also occupies a special place for its stylised retelling of the grail legend. Might have to do with my fascination with both Chretien and Rohmer, and the fact that I read the grail legends at an impressionable age

M
madhuban
 

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