‘A Tale of Winter’, directed by Éric Rohmer in 1992, is the second of the French directors’ quartet of season themed films that include ‘A Tale of Springtime’ and ‘Autumn Tale’. As with those, this movie focuses on the tangled love life of a woman. Félicie meets a chef called Charles whilst on holiday and, after having an affair with him, accidentally gives him an incorrect address. Five years later, Félicie is living with her mother and her and Charles’ daughter. She is auditioning two men as her lover, an intellectual called Loic and a hairdresser called Maxence, whilst still pining for Charles. She goes with Maxence when he opens a new salon in a small town, but quickly returns to Paris disillusioned by him and by life with him. Loic becomes a frustrated and platonic friend, but suddenly Félicie finds herself reconciled with Charles on a bus. It’s a light film, free from any incidental music or artificial emotional queues. The focus is entirely on Félicie’s dilemma and on her, somewhat dry and distant, approach to finding love. At the centre of all this is Charles and Félicie’s daughter, Elise, pulled by her mother from place to place and introduced to a number of transient father figures. The purpose of this is clear: when Elise finally meets her father she recognises him as such from photos and from her mother’s stories. After spending so much time with surrogate fathers, this recognition is testament to the strength of Félicie’s love for Charles. I’m not sure this doesn’t make Félicie an unsympathetic character though – she uses her two lovers to intellectually work through her issues and to recognise her true love. There is a touch of cruel sacrifice with Elise at the centre. The cold, chilly winter setting is therefore appropriate.
Would I recommend it? Yes –obviously with the other films in the quartet. Only one left to watch and I’ve saved summer for last.