En compagnie d’Eric Rohmer

I saw this last night in the company of the zany charm of Marie Rivière, there to introduce it. Rivière confessed to not being a filmmaker; to having to borrow a camera (which had to be returned nightly); to running out of money to pay professional editors and having to learn editing herself. And her chatty introduction to the film (and her answer to my wife’s question about the vegetarian scene in _Le Rayon Vert_) promised a film with no narrative trajectory.

And it was inept, but not stupid inept like, say, Birdemic or The Room. Through the mess, Rivière sits in Rohmer’s office, having him sing the final song from La Femme de l’aviateur, reenacting scenes from Le Rayon Vert and Perceval le Gallois, concocting little plays and listening to him recite Mallarmé, and, outside his office, dragooning her typically gloomy teenage son François into serving as her assistant cameraman. She has several of Rohmer’s repertory visit his office–Fabrice Luchini, Andy Gillet, Arielle Dombasle–and meets with his producer, his composer, and with François Ozon, who gives Le Rayon Vert the credit of his being a director at all.

Ozon, Luchini and, especially, Dombasle think they’re in a typical documentary. They’re charming, professional, noisily intimate, but Rivière either doesn’t know how to or chooses not to neatly edit out their sloppy edges. Though Luchini claims to have spent a lifetime learning in Rohmer’s office, he has to be told which floor it’s on, and grouses at being invited back for a second round. Dombasle (like Luchini in the _Quatre aventures de Reinette et Mirabelle_) can’t shut up or stop playing the star. When Rivière first visits her, Dombasle produces a cigarette holder, lights up, and hospitably tries to cram it into Rivière’s mouth. I howled and the little man next to me said ‘shhh shhh shhh,’ like I was a fussy baby. In Rohmer’s office, Dombasle insists that she and Rohmer and Rivière be shot together, clustered around his chair, and suggests they each sing and recite a poem. While Rivière shifts and grimaces, and Rohmer tries to squeeze in some Verlaine, Dombasle takes over, interrupting everyone.

Then, while Rivière’s on vacation, Rohmer dies. And that’s how it ends. She calls him, gets no answer, and learns of his death the same way everyone else does, from a newstand. We might wonder retroactively whether Rohmer reciprocated her devotion. But that’s uncharitable. Better to think of his ending as like the ending ofLe Rayon Vert and the Quatre aventures: life like the best films just stops without us quite knowing where we stand.

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