Sunday 23 August 2020

1,001 Films: "A Winter's Tale/Conte d'Hiver" (1992)

Only tangentially to do with Shakespeare (and nothing at all to do with David Essex, for that matter), A Winter's Tale was the second in Eric Rohmer's Tales of the Four Seasons cycle of films, opening after A Tale of Springtime, but before A Summer's Tale and An Autumn's Tale. It opens with a brief run-through of an idyllic holiday romance, all frolicking on the beach followed by teary au revoirs and a hurried exchange of contact details at the train station. Flashforward five years (five and a half, presumably), and our heroine Félicie (Charlotte Véry) is employed as a hairdresser in chilly Paris, commuting in from the suburbs and torn between three men: Loic (Hervé Furic), her new, scholarly lover; Maxence (Michel Voletti), her boss, who wants her when he wants her, but keeps her at arm's length when he doesn't; and the memory of her holiday beau, Charles (Frederic van den Driessche), who fathered her daughter but never showed up to see her, because she gave him the wrong address. It remains to be seen whether that mix-up was deliberate or entirely accidental.

Félicie is a typical Rohmer heroine who, in between slips of the tongue, gets what sounds like the archetypal Rohmer line ("I haven't said yes, but I haven't said no"), expecting her new lovers to stand by, if not cheer her on, while she continues to tend the old flames in her head and heart. Again, Rohmer succeeds in making complex emotional entanglements seem much simpler to us, the audience, than they must to the characters caught up in them. His real achievement here, though, is being both admirably honest about and notably compassionate towards a single mother who is characterised by an intellectual insecurity, a sense she's getting out of her depth; given that Loic and friends share long, involved conversations about metempsychosis, it's a very easy feeling for the rest of us to share. The film is more fluid emotionally than dramatically, with a lot of the static talkiness you either love or grow weary of in Rohmer's work - I've always enjoyed his beginnings and endings, and tend to struggle through his mid-sections, if that helps - but a lot of it does ring true: I know for a fact there's at least one Félicie out there, from personal experience.

A Winter's Tale is available on DVD as part of Artificial Eye's Tales of the Four Seasons boxset.

No comments:

Post a Comment