Wednesday, November 24, 2021

A Tale of Springtime (Eric Rohmer, 1990)


Eric Rohmer’s A Tale of Springtime may bring to mind the maxim driving his earlier Full Moon In Paris –“He who has two women loses his soul, he who has two houses loses his mind.” Jeanne, a young philosophy teacher, can’t stay in her own place because she lent it to a cousin, and doesn’t want to sleep at her messy boyfriend’s place while he’s away, so she accepts a sleepover invitation from Natasha, a music student she meets at a party, and then remains for a week, getting drawn into the complications between Natasha and her father and his younger girlfriend Eve, whom Natasha detests, suspecting her in particular of stealing a family heirloom necklace. Despite the promise of the title, the film is among the more withholding of Rohmer’s late works, partly reflecting the relative severity of its protagonist – when philosophy is discussed here, it’s as much for display as anything else, with Eve flaunting how her knowledge is greater than Natasha’s. The film develops a sense of escalating pressure – the larger the canvas of possibility that Natasha presents for Jeanne (including the notion that Jeanne might replace Eve as her father’s partner), the more restricting it starts to seem; release only arrives through a freak event that absolves everyone of guilt, emphasizing the prominence of chance and caprice in our lives, and the traps inherent in human intellect and perception. Still, when in the end the film realizes its title by having Jeanne return to familiar territory, replacing a vase of withered old flowers with some bright new ones, it’s a less satisfactory arrival point than Rohmer customarily provides, with the nature of Jeanne’s inner renewal rather hard to glean (other than that, in some general sense, she’s found a way to modestly evade the inner confinement that arises from a life hemmed in by logistics and infrastructure).

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