Eric Rohmer

Eric Rohmer: Interviews

Edited by Fiona Handyside
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 224
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt24hwk6
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  • Book Info
    Eric Rohmer
    Book Description:

    The 1969 film Ma Nuit chez Maud catapulted its shy academic film director Eric Rohmer (1920-2010) into the limelight, selling over a million tickets in France and earning a nomination for an Academy Award. Ma Nuit chez Maud remains his most famous film, the highlight of an impressive range of films examining the sexual, romantic, and artistic mores of contemporary France, the temptations of desire, the small joys of everyday life, and sometimes, the vicissitudes of history and politics. Yet Rohmer was already forty years old when Maud was released and had already had a career as the editor of Cahiers du Cinéma, a position he lost in a political takeover in 1963. The interviews in this book offer a range of insights into the theoretical, critical, and practical circumstances of Rohmer's remarkably coherent body of films, but also allow Rohmer to act as his own critic, providing us with an array of readings concerning his interest in setting, season, color, and narrative. Alongside the application of a theoretical rigor to his own films, Rohmer's interviews also discuss directors as varied as Godard, Carné, Renoir, and Hitchcock, and the relations of film to painting, architecture, and music. This book reproduces little-known interviews, such as a debate Rohmer undertakes with Women and Film concerning feminism, alongside detailed discussions from Cahiers and Positif, many produced in English here for the first time.

    eISBN: 978-1-62103-921-1
    Subjects: Performing Arts, Film Studies, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. vii-xiv)
    FH

    Despite a reputation for shyness, Eric Rohmer (1920–2010) gave many excellent, insightful, and engaging interviews over his film career in a wide variety of publications and also on television. As Gilbert Adair writes in 1978, Rohmer cut rather a solitary figure in the world of French cinema: when his New Wave contemporaries were riffing on Hollywood genres in their films, he was planning hisContes moraux/ Moral Tales, more indebted to the French literary tradition of libertinage than the influences of American cinema. He avoided becoming involved in the Marxist/Leninist politics of the later 1960s, holding onto his own...

  4. Chronology
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  5. Filmography
    (pp. xix-2)
  6. Eric Rohmer: An Interview
    (pp. 3-14)
    Eric Rohmer and Graham Petrie

    Graham Petrie: Where and when were you born?

    Eric Rohmer: What I say most often—and I don’t want to stake my life that it’s true—is that I was born at Nancy on April 4, 1923. Sometimes I give other dates, but if you use that one you’ll be in agreement with other biographers. It was certainly 1923. [Rohmer was in fact born in 1920—editor’s note].

    GP: Have you always been interested in the cinema?

    ER: No, I couldn’t say that. I became interested in cinema very late, when I was a student. Up till then I despised...

  7. Eric Rohmer: Choice and Chance
    (pp. 15-27)
    Rui Nogueira

    Eric Rohmer: Unlike my colleagues onCahiers du Cinema, I came rather late to films. Until I was sixteen I hadn’t seen a thing. It was only after the war that I really became interested, when I started going to the Cinémathèque, which in those days was called “Le Cercle du Cinéma,” and then it was the silent films that attracted me most. Murnau was the great revelation. In those days he wasn’t so highly thought of. Even Bazin considered his work dated—though of course he didn’t feel that about Stroheim. I supposeNosferatuwas the only Murnau film...

  8. Moral Tales: Eric Rohmer Reviewed and Interviewed
    (pp. 28-40)
    Eric Rohmer and Beverly Walker

    WhenMy Night at Maud’shit the film scene four years ago, I breathed a sigh of relief that someone had, at last, created a character with whom I could readily identify. The fascinating Maud was perfect: she was educated and self-supporting (a doctor by profession). She enjoyed being a mother to her daughter but made no apologies for her divorcee status. Her beauty and sex appeal were not surface artifice, manufactured by Hollywood: they were totally integral to her character and personality. No passive “sex object,” she was perfectly capable of letting a man know she desired him. Brilliantly...

  9. Rohmer’s Perceval
    (pp. 41-49)
    Gilbert Adair

    Eric Rohmer has always cut a somewhat solitary figure. At a time when most of his New Wave contemporaries were freely subverting minor American thrillers, he was serenely plotting the course of hisComes Moraux, six cool, epigrammatic variations on a theme whose place in cinema might be compared to that, in literature, of eighteenth-century epistolary novels. At a time when sexual explicitness on the screen had already become dully commonplace, the most shocking moment in a Rohmer film was, perhaps, when we were finally permitted to feast our eyes on Claire’s charming knee, full-frontal, being fondled by Jean-Claude Brialy....

  10. Comedies and Proverbs: An Interview with Eric Rohmer
    (pp. 50-57)
    Eric Rohmer and Fabrice Ziolkowski

    Eric Rohmer’s career has been an extremely varied one: teacher, critic, editor, producer, director. François Truffaut and Jacques Doniol-Valcroze called on him in the late fifties to take over the editorship ofCahiers du Cinémawhich had just felt the blow of André Bazin’s death. Rohmer, who signed his first articles inCahiersas Maurice Schérer, led the review for some six years and finally devoted himself solely to filmmaking. He grouped his first films in a series of what he calledMoral Tales. They includeMy Night at Maud’s,La Collectioneuse,Chloe in the Afternoon, andClaire’s Knee. His...

  11. Eric Rohmer on Film Scripts and Film Plans
    (pp. 58-66)
    Robert Hammond and Jean-Pierre Pagliano

    Since Eric Rohmer has already spoken of his ideas on film in the introduction to hisMoral Tales, this interview concerns the relative importance of the script as opposed to the rest of the film.

    Question: What are your current film projects?

    Eric Rohmer: Let me give you a bit of information: now that I’ve written a cycle of films based on original scenarios—what they call in France “author films”—Moral Tales—and now that I’ve stopped for a few years to filmThe Marquise of OandPerceval, I’m going back to a new cycle, calledComedies and....

  12. Interview: Pauline at the Beach
    (pp. 67-71)
    Serge Daney, Louella Interim and Eric Rohmer

    Question: What is the status of the actors in your films? Are they professional artists?

    Eric Rohmer: Yes. I won’t have any debate on this point now. I’ve asked for professional actors. In theMoral Tales, withLa Collectionneusefor example, there were people with whom I indulged in a cinema-verité kind of documentary style filmmaking. It’s really not the case here. The text was written in advance, and there was absolutely no improvisation.

    Q: But didn’t how they present themselves in real life, privately, socially, influence how you used them in the film?

    ER: I’m going to tell you...

  13. Celluloid and Stone
    (pp. 72-81)
    Claude Beylie and Alain Carbonnier

    Eric Rohmer’s corpus has been frequently commented upon, mainly in terms of its elegant simplicity and the subtle psychology of his characters. We preferred to take a different path in our interview, concentrating on the spatio-temporal environment in which his films take place, and the urban perimeter that they circumscribe. Architectural and filmic space are linked. What secret alchemy does Rohmer use?

    Q: We have the feeling that you have, since your first films, been interested in questions of architecture, space, and notably urban space, and their relationship to the cinema. Is there an interesting project for a filmmaker there,...

  14. Interview with Eric Rohmer
    (pp. 82-100)
    Eric Rohmer, Gérard Legrand, Hubert Niogret and François Ramasse

    Question: The last film of theMoral TalesisLove in the Afternoon. Did you think of Billy Wilder’s film of the same name? Having just seenThe Adventures of Reinette and Mirabelle, we think that, were you a theatre director, you would stage Feydeau or Labiche. How do you see your relationship to comedy?

    Eric Rohmer: I did think of the title of Wilder’s film. I like Wilder, he has a corrosive edge, joined with a certain vulgarity which means I don’t always have a lot in common with him. In the comedy genre, I prefer Lubitsch. But I...

  15. Interview with Eric Rohmer
    (pp. 101-110)
    Eric Rohmer, Gérard Legrand and François Thomas

    Question: You have just begun a new cycle, theTales of the Four Seasons. When did you know that theComedies and Proverbswould finish, with the filmMy Girlfriend’s Boyfriendas it happens?

    Eric Rohmer: I’m going to start by saying it’s not necessarily finished. I might well have another idea for a film that seems “proverbial” to me, that I’ll decorate with a proverb and add to the series. It was more difficult with theMoral Talesbecause I announced six of them from the start, but withComedies and Proverbsthere’s nothing to stop me making another....

  16. Eric Rohmer: Coincidences
    (pp. 111-123)
    Olivier Curchod

    Olivier Curchod: The title of this secondTale of the Four Seasonscoincides with that of a play by Shakespeare whose final scene you show as part of a play that your heroine goes to see. Did this Shakespearean reference pre-exist the conception of the film or did it find its place in a pre-existing plot?

    Eric Rohmer: Well, you know that some of myComedies and Proverbswere in gestation when I was making theMoral Tales, even if I wasn’t really thinking about them: in the same way, certainTales of the Four Seasonswere conceived of when...

  17. The Amateur: An Interview with Eric Rohmer
    (pp. 124-139)
    Eric Rohmer, Antoine de Baecque and Thierry Jousse

    WatchingThe Tree,the Mayor and the Mediatheque, one understands that Rohmer is continuing his journey towards simplicity. To get there, he needs a method, which is that of a filmmaker who has definitively broken away from the cult of professionalism. This interview is a defence and an illustration of a light economy, 16mm film, and filming as a family affair.

    Q: Let’s start with a concrete question.

    ER: Yes, let’s.

    Q: Traditionally, a film crew is perceived, usually correctly, as a group of invaders when they arrive on location. How did you work to not give that impression when...

  18. Interview with Eric Rohmer
    (pp. 140-145)
    Eric Rohmer and Aurélien Ferenzi

    AF: How did the idea ofThe Lady and the Dukecome to you?

    ER: While on holiday about ten years ago, I came across a digest of the memoirs of Grace Elliott in a history magazine. This English lady had been the mistress of the Duke of Orleans, King Louis XVI’s cousin, and had written an account of her life during the French Revolution. The article mentioned that her town house was still standing at such-and-such a number on Rue Miromesnil. I have always been interested in places and was particularly struck by the idea that this house could...

  19. Interview with Eric Rohmer: Does Cinematography Have an Artistic Function?
    (pp. 146-164)
    Eric Rohmer and Priska Morrissey

    In this interview, Eric Rohmer discusses his ideas concerning the collaboration between the director and his cinematographer. Considering the question of who authors the image and his long collaboration with Nestor Almendros, his work with Renato Berta and Diane Baratier, the filmmaker reveals some of the key principles of his aesthetic of light (how to render color, the relationship between background and foreground, windows and shadows, the problem of the changeable sky, etc.). We find some “New Wave” characteristics in his attitude towards light, that is to say both a rejection of standard lighting set-ups—actors picked out by key...

  20. Interview with Eric Rohmer: Video Is Becoming Increasingly Significant
    (pp. 165-169)
    Eric Rohmer, Noël Herpe and Cyril Neyrat

    ER: I haven’t really been to the cinema for a few years; I’ve gotten used to video cassettes and now to DVDs. … I don’t admit this very often, because I think it could shock people who love the cinema. … You couldn’t really say I’m reactionary about this, I’d say I was rather avant-garde! Video is now becoming increasingly significant. The video format is more faithful to my original vision of my films than the cinematic version because of the aspect ratio. I shoot in 1.33 format, but it will be screened in 1.66. There are no longer any...

  21. I’m a Filmmaker, Not a Historian
    (pp. 170-181)
    Philippe Fauvel and Noël Herpe

    Question: How did you discoverL’Astrée?

    Eric Rohmer: In general, I find things by myself: I had the idea to filmPercevalwhen I was teaching thirteen-year-old school children; I discoveredLa Marquise d’Owhen teaching Kleist’s novella, which wasn’t even translated into French. When I taught French in secondary schools,L’Astréewas two pages from a school text book written by Chevalier and Audiat (the precursor of Lagarde and Michard): it didn’t interest me particularly! What’s more, you can’t really find the book anymore, other than in small segments. But it just so happened that Pierre Zucca, a filmmaker...

  22. Eric Rohmer: Father of the New Wave
    (pp. 182-184)
    Kaleem Aftab

    Eric Rohmer has always been the most discreet of film directors. While his contemporaries saunter from film festival to film festival and spend hours in interviews spouting their views on film and life, Rohmer has, by and large, chosen to stay at home. The first indication of his cloaked nature came in 1946 when he chose to release his novelElizabethunder the pseudonym Gilbert Cordier. Even Eric Rohmer is an alias: he was born Jean-Marie Maurice Schérer in 1920.

    He came up with his auteur signature (fashioned together in homage to the actor and director Erich von Stroheim and...

  23. Interview with Eric Rohmer: The Memory of the Figurative
    (pp. 185-190)
    Eric Rohmer, Philippe Fauvel and Noël Herpe

    Question: In your series of articles that appeared in 1955 (and entitledCelluloid and Marble) you argued that painting was the great art of the twentieth century. Why does this artistic expansion seem exceptional to you?

    Eric Rohmer: Well, really, it was the great art of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Because then, renewal was absolute, without comparison in any other artistic domain. Poetry became—not decadent, but a bit thin! It lost its sparkle at the start of the nineteenth century, it feels as if it’s searching for a sense of itself and turned on itself a...

  24. Major Interviews Given by Eric Rohmer
    (pp. 191-196)
    Eric Rohmer

    Eric Rohmer was a prolific interviewer and upon the release of his films was often interviewed in major newspapers in France—included in this book is an interview withLibérationupon the release ofPauline at the Beach. The list below is an account of his interviews in French with major journals devoted to cinema, and some interviews given in books and on television, and the most important English language interviews that Rohmer gave. Asterisked interviews are reproduced in this book.

    Where English language translations are available, details are given.

    172 (1965): Jean-Claude Biette, Jacques Bontemps, and Jean-Louis Comolli, “Entretien...

  25. Index
    (pp. 197-200)