A Tale of Springtime (1990)

“I like desiring and being desired… especially when it’s unspoken… even if it goes nowhere.”

‘A Tale of Springtime’, directed by Éric Rohmer in 1990, is the opening film in a quartet that includes ‘Autumn Tale’. It’s the gentle story of a teacher, played by Anne Teyssèdre, who befriends a younger woman at a party. The girl attempts to match-make her father with the teacher through a series of pictureseque meetings in Paris and the countryside near the city. It’s beautifully shot, the focus on the season and the way it mirrors the burgeoning love affairs gives the movie a rich texture. Rohmer employs amateur actors, shoots without flourishes or gimmicks, declines to use extradiegetic music and allows the viewer to concentrate entirely on the naturalistic conversations that his characters engage in. The teacher is a philosopher (welcome to France) so the conversations often lurch into deep areas, but when they do, the routine and domestic activity of the characters balances it. I was reminded of Richard Linklater’s ‘Before Sunrise’ trilogy throughout the film, a movie constructed from series of conversations in which action is irrelevant. The use of music (the younger woman is a pianist) also runs through the film, again adding to the texture. When compared with ‘Autumn Tale’ it becomes clear what Rohmer is aiming towards: the latter film is about love late in life, whilst this film looks at new beginnings as the characters assess their current romances and consider moving on from them. It’s slight, understated but perfectly pitched.

Would I recommend it? Yes – it’s hard not to recommend watching it as part of the quartet, but Linklater’s films would also make an interesting match.

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