A Summer’s Tale (1996)

“Some days I’d like to be stupid and ugly. I only meet guys who want to paw me. Never anyone I can just talk to. I think it’s a shame… that nine times out of ten, when a guy talks to a girl… he’s got another thought in mind.”

‘A Summer’s Tale’, directed by Éric Rohmer in 1996, is a French romance and the third in a quartet of movies that include ‘A Tale of Springtime’, ‘Autumn Tale’ and ‘A Tale of Winter’. Melvil Poupaud plays Gaspard, a recent graduate who comes to a Breton seaside town to meet his on-off girlfriend Lena, played by Aurelia Nolin. Lena fails to show up when he’s there and he instead meets Margot a local waitress who also has a PhD in Ethnography played by Amanda Langlet. They forge a close friendship that is only stopped from developing into more by Margot’s reluctance to get into a relationship. Soon Gaspard meets a second girl, Solene, played by Gwenaëlle Simon, who is more tactile than Margot, but more possessive. She, not unfairly, insists Gaspard commits himself to her before they progress, but then the mercurial and delayed Lena shows up. Gaspard is forced to choose between the three women in his life. For a film that deals with a complex and potentially painful love quartet, ‘A Summer’s Tale’ is a light, gentle movie, appropriately picturesque and sunny. A running trend in Rohmer’s movies is that his characters, especially the female ones, are intelligent to the point of emotionally passive. The three girls in this film, much like Jeanne in ‘A Tale of Springtime’ or Félicie in ‘A Tale of Winter’, approach their relationships with Gaspard with eerie calmness and a lack of demonstrative awkwardness. In the end, the primary tonal beats of the film are the promise of something great in Gaspard’s future, if only he can make the right decision, and a final melancholy at the end when the future seems to pass through his fingers. It’s a movie designed to evoke the season in which it is set: ethereal, transitory and, ultimately, a fantasy.

Would I recommend it? There’s something about all four of these films that appeal to me. I find the dry, intellectual dialogue, the repressed characters and the unusual presentations of relationships to be compelling. I’d recommend watching them, not in an epic marathon, but one a night.

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