Summer’s Tale, A (1996)

The romantic complications of a young man and three women are laid bare in this naturalistic and minimalist entry from Rohmer’s ‘Tale of the Four Seasons’ series.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Dir. Eric Rohmer
1996 | France | Drama/Romance | 113 mins | French
PG (passed clean) for some mature themes

Cast: Melvil Poupaud, Amanda Langlet, Gwenaelle Simon, Aurelia Nolin
Plot: Graduate Gaspard goes on holiday to the seaside. He’s hoping his sort-of girlfriend Lena will join him there; but as time passes, he welcomes the interest of Margot. When Margot encourages him to have a romance with her friend Solene, he complies. But when Lena turns up, Gaspard will have to choose.
Awards: Nom. for Un Certain Regard (Cannes)
Source: Les Films du Losange

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate – Relationships, Love
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse

Viewed: Objectifs
First Published: 17 Nov 2016
Spoilers: No

The films of Eric Rohmer have eluded me for years, so what a fantastic opportunity to clock my first Rohmer with A Summer’s Tale, with editor Mary Stephen present for a post-screening dialogue. 

Stephen, who edited the director’s late career works, spoke about how the film was shot and edited, and remarked that it was one of Rohmer’s most personal works, based on a screenplay that he wrote when he was in his twenties. 

A Summer’s Tale centers on a young math graduate, Gaspard, who is temporarily residing in Dinard, a beach town, before he starts his first job.  Shy and introverted, but feeds off well with anyone with the right vibes, he awaits his girlfriend Lena from overseas to accompany him. 

Days go by without news, and smitten by two new girls (Margot and Solene) that he inadvertently met, Gaspard spends time with each separately, musing about love and life.

“Since no one loves me, I don’t love anyone.”

Rohmer lays bare the romantic complications of a young man and three women with consummate skill, turning the film from a ‘which girl would he pick?’ conundrum to a poetic, free-flowing treatise on relationships and connections.

The film is shot in a naturalistic and minimalist style, expressing an organic, unhurried and unrehearsed quality. The characters walk along the beach, pathways and the streets, seemingly carefree and revelling in their youth, but they also indulge in their emotional insecurities.  

One may accuse A Summer’s Tale of being circular, meandering and ambiguous, and its day-by-day storytelling structure (Rohmer makes it explicit by breaking up each day with an intertitle calendar) can feel rote. 

But this is a film whose sum is more than its parts, and articulates deftly the uncertainty of loving someone—and being loved in return.  Yet, stripped of its themes of romance and connection, Rohmer’s work is also about embracing the future as life charts its own course.

Grade: A-




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