This is one of Rohmer’s more styleless films, though it is inherently more political than most of his output as he intellectualises the nature of political ecology, which may occasionally if unexpectedly come across as a tad dry.
Dir. Eric Rohmer
1993 | France | Drama/Comedy | 106 mins | 1.37:1 | French
Not rated – likely to be PG
Cast: Pascal Greggory, Arielle Dombasle, Fabrice Luchini, Clementine Amouroux, Galaxie Barbouth
Plot: The socialist mayor of a French village is aiming to gather funds to build a multimedia centre, having his hopes pinned on Parisian investors, and a rustic field for the site. Unfortunately, that field has a 100–year-old willow tree and a possible saviour in an ever–ruffled grade school teacher.
Awards: Official Selection (Berlinale)
Source: Les Films du Losange
Subject Matter: Moderate – Political Ecology
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse
The Tree, the Mayor and the Mediatheque is pretty much in the Eric Rohmer style, though here one might accuse him of being more styleless than usual.
Visually, there is less to appreciate—there are few extreme wide shots, and most are functional medium-to-wide shots that are edited with the minimum of fuss.
Yet Mediatheque happens to be inherently more political than most of his output. Here the subject is the building of a new cultural and sports complex in a rural village, hence the ‘mediatheque’.
A man solicits enough budget to call the shots, hence the ‘mayor’ (who is socialist-leaning). Elsewhere, a school principal laments the possibility of a large iconic tree making way for the mediatheque, hence the ‘tree’.
“Isn’t the fear of ridicule snobbish?”
Rohmer ties everything largely to political ecology as his characters serve up conversations after conversations about the sustenance of the environment and the types of political ideologies that may be suited to the cause.
Stripped to its essentials, these arguments are about the city versus rural divide, and the blurring of the demarcation between them in the context of societal and cultural progress.
If you think all of these could be boring and dry, it sometimes actually is, which is unexpected as Rohmer has always consistently shown that he could take the dullest topic known to Man and turn it into a riveting intellectual exercise.
Still, Rohmer fans shouldn’t miss this as he plays around with a range of tones, albeit a tad unconvincingly, including a documentary-esque segment where a journalist interviews folks from the rural village.