The New York Times reports that French writer/filmmaker Eric Rohmer, considered one of the founding figures of the French New Wave and noted for his definitive, language-obsessed style, died today at the age of 89. The director of more than 24 films over the course of 50 years, Rohmer — who was born Jean-Marie Maurice Schérerse — was nominated for an Academy Award for his 1969 work My Night at Maud’s; one of his”Six Moral Tales” (a series of films about a man meeting the “other” woman) it was also considered his US breakthrough. His 1972 film, Chloe in the Afternoon, was remade as I Think I Love My Wife by Chris Rock in 2007.
As the Times notes,
“In opposition both to the intensely personal, confessional tone of much of the work of [Francois] Truffaut and the politically provocative films of [Jean-Luc]Godard, Mr. Rohmer remained true to a restrained, rationalist aesthetic, close to the principles of the 18th-century thinkers whose words he frequently cited in his movies. And yet Mr. Rohmer’s work was warmed by an undercurrent of romanticism and erotic yearning, made perhaps all the more affecting for never quite breaking through the surface of his elegant, orderly films.”
Roger Ebert remembers him like so:
“Few directors have loved people more: Their quirks, weaknesses, pretensions, ideals, and above their hopes of happiness. In 27 features made between 1959 and 2007, not a single Rohmer character was a generic type. All were originals.”
In a review of Rohmer’s ’92 film A Tale of Winter (which was part of his Tales of the Four Seasons series), Ebert went into a little more detail:
“What pervades Rohmer’s work is a faith in love — or, if not love, then in the right people finding each other for the right reasons. There is sadness in his work but not gloom. His characters are too smart to be surprised by disappointments, and too interested in life to indulge in depression. His films succeed not because large truths are discovered, but because small truths will do. To attend his films is to be for a time in the company of people we would like to know, and then to realize that in various ways they are ourselves.”
Watch the trailers for two of his most famous films below. The Six Moral Tales are available as a box set from Criterion.
My Night at Maud’s (1969)
Chloe In The Afternoon (1972)