Les Petites Merveilles d’Eric Rohmer

There’s something about Eric Rohmer films that reminds me why I fell in love with movies in the first place. I’ve always been a French New Wave fan, and especially dazzled by those particular French filmmakers with the ability to capture every-day moments that give me that “God, I know just how she feels” sensation. Remember when you were16, how you could fall in love with a guy because of the way his forearm flinched as he shifted into second? Or the mortification you still feel when you bump into your object of desire and can think of nothing to say? How about the unabashed joy of amazing, non-stop, real conversation with someone you think you could love? The characters in Rohmer’s movies (especially his series Moral Tales and Comedies and Proverbs) are about very ordinary people and their exquisitely ordinary lives. What happens to the two couples in Boyfriends and Girlfriends is so banal that most filmmakers wouldn’t afford them the film stock. They sit in cafés and talk endlessly about relationships. An epiphany consists of a mental shift so small that the world would deem it inconsequential (as in the fiction of Henry James). “I don’t think I like him anymore” or, “wow, I still love my wife.” But sometimes there’s nothing you’d rather do than spend an afternoon with a Rohmer film. On the right rainy day, nothing will make you swoon like Chloë in the Afternoon or Claire’s Knee. And when he manages to transcend his ordinary people and their ordinary lives, imbuing their stories with a moving universality — like in his masterpiece My Night at Maud’s — Rohmer becomes something of a god of the ordinary, of the little details that count, of love itself. (Winstar is releasing a series of 14 Rohmer films in New York on February 9, and across the country throughout 2001.)