Friday Editor’s Pick: Four Adventures of Reinette and Mirabelle (1987)

by on July 21, 2011Posted in: Editor's Pick

Playing Fri July 22 thru Tue July 26 at 2:00, 4:30, 6:50, 9:15 at BAMcinématek [Program & Tix]
 

Aaron Goldberg for Senses of Cinema:

While not highly regarded (by some) in the expansive Rohmer canon, The 4 Adventures of Reinette and Mirabelle stands as one of Rohmer’s most playful, if not hilarious features. Filmed quickly on 16mm while Rohmer was waiting to get decent sunset shots for his sublime Le Rayon vert (1986), The 4 Adventures of Reinette and Mirabelle features mainly non-professional actors who improvised most of the witty and frank dialogue. Rohmer bookends the film with chintzy lo-fi electronic theme music, a sort of knowing wink by one of the original “new wavers” to the new-wave music of the 1980s, and perhaps to the emerging “indie” cinematic movement of the time as well. Yet Rohmer’s old-school (cinematic) “new wave” chops are working in full effect here. From the shaky vérité camerawork, to long discussions about morality and art, his romantic heart is working in cruise control, delivering a film that ably stands it’s own ground.

 

 

Caryn James for the New York Times:

As if making a joke about the famous talkiness of his films, Eric Rohmer’s latest work begins and ends with silence – or at least the idea of silence. In the first of the connected episodes in ”Four Adventures of Reinette and Mirabelle,” the voluble Reinette treasures silence so much she wakes her friend.

 

As if making a joke about the famous talkiness of his films, Eric Rohmer’s latest work begins and ends with silence – or at least the idea of silence. In the first of the connected episodes in ”Four Adventures of Reinette and Mirabelle,” the voluble Reinette treasures silence so much she wakes her friend Mirabelle before dawn to hear ”the blue hour,” which is not an hour but a second, not a sound but a brief silence between darkness and light, when the night birds stop singing and the day birds have not yet begun.

 

‘Four Adventures,” is more conspicuously comic, more overtly ethical, more pointed in its action than most of his recent works… Part of Mr. Rohmer’s genius, of course, is that he keeps creating such lives – ordinary and rarefied at once, almost but not quite beyond our grasp. No one actually lives in the world of a Rohmer film, where the name of a specific television show or rock star never mars a character’s timeless dialogue, where his characters’ heightened sense of everyday life seems absolutely adventurous. But the deep lure of his work is the suggestion that it is possible to be as articulate or as witty or even as extravagantly morose as a Rohmer character, to stumble across those undramatic moments of perfect grace on some beach or in some meadow.

 

Michael Joshua Rowin for L Mag:

Deeming Four Adventures of Reinette and Mirabelle “Eric Rohmer lite” will appear redundant to those who consider the late French New Wave legend’s films wispy; it will appear ill-fitting to those who consider them sublime. But as chronologically sandwiched between poignantly searching Summer (1986) and poignantly ironic Boyfriends and Girlfriends (1987), Four Adventures can’t help but feel obvious and unfocused by comparison, a rare frivolity in a career of consistently yet subtly varied studies of romantic and 
philosophical dilemmas.

 

And yet I’ll take it if only for first of the film’s four episodes, “The Blue Hour,” in which jaded city slicker Mirabelle (Jessica Forde) befriends bubbly country gal Reinette (Joëlle Miquel) in the latter’s quiet rural village. Introduced to the marvels of nature, Mirabelle becomes curious about the pre-dawn “blue hour” of perfect silence Reinette speaks of in nearly transcendent terms. The longed-for moment fosters an unspoken connection between the two young women that Rohmer captures with crepuscular photography and an ineffable, subdued magic.

 

 

Jonathan Rosenbaum for Chicago Reader:

Four tales about Reinette (Joelle Miquel), a country girl who paints and operates according to certain principles, and Mirabelle (Jessica Forde), her less rigorous friend from the city; they meet in the country in the first episode and share an apartment in Paris during the remaining three. This feature was shot in 16-millimeter by Eric Rohmer in 1986, shortly before he completed Summer in the same format and with the same method of letting his leading actors improvise dialogue rather than strictly following scripts. Not part of Rohmer’s “Comedies and Proverbs” series, and deliberately light and nonambitious (very little of consequence occurs in any of the tales), this nevertheless shows the filmmaker at nearly peak form—sharply attentive to the sights and sounds of country and city alike and to the temperamental differences between his two heroines.

 

Leonard Lopate interviews Marie Riviere, star of Le Rayon Vert and Four Adventures:

 

Armond White for the NY Press:

Four Adventures belongs to that epiphanal period following Rohmer’s Summer (Le Rayon Vert) and Rendezvous in Paris of especially pared-down comical inquiries. Casually focused on characters discovering themselves through witnessing profound phenomenon—the quotidian felt as an adventure—Rohmer watches the two new friends’ developing intimacy. In this remarkably rich story, time (the world) seems to stop. When the girls awaken to watch a quiet dawn, Rohmer devotes cinema to contemplation: excitable Renette urges Mirabelle to wait for the blue hour of twilight. This moment is “hushed as if a secret was about to be revealed”—to use a phrase from silent-film master Josef von Sternberg.

Rohmer’s peaceful cinema stands out in our era of F/X noise and distraction. The country girl painter instructs the city girl ethnology student: “We need nature, not vice versa.” This is not “Eat Pray Ecology,” but a brave reintroduction of sophistication to the basic elements of nature and self-knowledge. Rohmer’s spare narrative encompasses Grimm and Perrault (as Mirabelle cites) plus La Fontaine as well as the 20th-century painters Felix Labisse and Paul Deveaux, where the natural, erotic and surreal blend.

 

This austere elegance is, at last, what mumblecore’s practitioners and hypesters need to learn: Rohmer wasn’t a hipster narcissist but an intent observer of life and language styles.

 

David Fear for Time Out New York:

The squiggly neon titles and synth-cheese soundtrack may firmly carbon-date Eric Rohmer’s four-part character study to the late ’80s, but the method this French filmmaker applies is timeless: Throw chatty folks together, let the discourse dictate the story’s direction and FIN. A minor companion piece to a major work—1986’s The Green Ray—this country-mouse–city-mouse tale plays like its predecessor in reverse, beginning with a colorful epiphany and ending with cosmo-farcical vignettes. Jaded urbanite Mirabelle (Forde) and bumpkinish artist Reinette (Miquel) bond over a moment of predawn rural bliss known as “the blue hour.” The two impulsively become roommates; once on the bustling rues of France’s crown jewel, they encounter caricatures of Paris-when-it-fizzles modernity, from suspicious waiters to klepto shoppers. Beaucoup conversation ensues, but you already knew that.

 

Broken into quarters, Four Adventures suffers from the fits and starts of a sum-of-its-parts setup, ambling through café dustups and train-station hustling with minimal Rohmeresque moral heft. Forde and Miquel never quite find the right odd-couple chemistry—no Celine and Julie, they—at least until the film’s final segment, involving a garrulous gallery owner (Luchini) and a bet requiring Reinette to stay silent for a day. Suddenly, everything clicks; this snooty art merchant may love the sound of his own voice, but you’re reminded how much Rohmer valued the sound of others’ voices above all, and why going out on a whimper occasionally works wonders.

 

Jaime N. Christley for Slant:

Four Adventures of Reinette and Mirabelle appeared at the tail end of Rohmer’s busiest decade. The 1980s also saw the director make three, arguably four game-changing masterpieces (The Aviator’s Wife, The Good Marriage, Full Moon in Paris and, mightiest of them all, Le Rayon Vert); he was also enjoying a phase of freewheeling experimentation, a fluid rearrangement of tones, attitudes, and concerns that would ultimately lead to his triumphant “Tales of the Four Seasons” series in the 1990s, and to tackle digital, delve further into period stories, and face his most pessimistic and romantic extremes, in his final decade.

 

Four Adventures uses a country-mouse-and-city-mouse template to explore morality, aesthetic sense, urban and rural savvy, and a host of other concerns. Reinette (Joëlle Miquel) meets Mirabelle (Jessica Forde) when the latter’s bicycle catches a flat on the country road near Reinette’s home. It’s hard not to connect the first episode with Le Rayon Vert: In both, a pair of characters makes a special effort to witness an unusual natural phenomenon (the green flash of sunset, there; the “blue hour,” i.e. the silent, pre-dawn moment between night birds signing off and day birds waking up, here), and in his unique, low-key fashion, Rohmer creates evocative, Murnau-esque lighting effects as the pair waits patiently in the darkened field in their bedclothes.

 

If the film has any weaknesses, it can be said that the sequence involving the misanthropic sidewalk cafe waiter plays a little artlessly to a broader comic space than the otherwise subtle, contemplative film can hope to accommodate. It plays like a Chaplin short, perhaps even pretty well, but the mix feels off. The finale is a much more characteristic Rohmer comedy, as it manages to juggle a narrative ellipsis (we sort of know what they plan to do, but we don’t know how it’s going to happen), misunderstanding, misdirection, a touch of theater, takes full advantage of a Rohmer regular (Perceval star Fabrice Luchini, in peak form), and caps it off with a punchline that can go toe-to-toe anytime with Hecht/MacArthur’s “That son of a bitch stole my watch.

 

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