Autumn Tale (1998)

“You really fooled me. I was ready for anything but this. You see, in a way, I’m relieved: Something was fishy, but I couldn’t figure it out. But I’m disappointed, too. Very much so. I was already more than interested in you. I don’t want to shock you, but I wanted to love you, and I’m frustrated.”

‘Autumn Tale’, directed by Éric Rohmer in 1998, is the forth film in a thematic series. Being perverse it’s the first I’ve seen. It’s a light, frothy movie telling the story of a lonely, widowed vineyard owner, Magali, whose friends, including the precocious girlfriend of her son, decide to match-make her. The film is formed of a series of gentle encounters between the different characters, each meditating on different forms of relationship: on new and awkward affairs, on illicit meetings, on friendships that stray from one level of intimacy to another and back again. It’s also interesting to watch this in the age of online dating: Magali’s best friend pretends to be her and advertises herself in the local paper. She meets a man and ‘auditions’ him for her friend, ultimately successfully but only after the two finally meet and the deception is revealed. The film is a study of the complications of meeting people in the modern world, but also the difficulties of finding a partner when you live and work alone. The characters, each finessed and entirely believable, are balanced in the film by a focus on the landscape and natural world. With Magali, the feeling you are left with is of a woman whose natural home is in the wild (her vineyard is purposefully left to grow with minimal tending or use of pesticides) and that she needs to touch the outside world once to find a partner. It’s a simple movie, but one that says profound things about relationships in an age where technology ironically keeps us apart.

Would I recommend it? Yes – it’s a lovely film. Watch on its own with a bottle of Côtes du Rhône.

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