A Summer’s Tale (1996), the third installment in Eric Rohmer’s four seasons series, hones in on the loveliness of idle summers. A young student of mathematics (Melvil Poupaud) arrives at a Breton resort town for his summer vacation; and despite the imminent arrival of his on-again off-again girlfriend (Aurelia Nolin) he begins to see a lot of a local waitress (Amanda Langlet). Things complicate further when his girlfriend does arrive, bringing an attractive friend in tow (Gwenaëlle Simon). The romantic gravitations between these beautiful people move the plot along, and it’s a distinct pleasure to watch them orbit.
Director: Eric Rohmer
Producers: Francois Etchegaray, Margaret Ménégoz
Writer: Eric Rohmer
Cinematographer: Diane Baratier
Editor: Mary Stephen
Cast: Melvil Poupaud, Amanda Langlet, Gwenaëlle Simon, Aurelia Nolin
Premiere: September 30, 2013 – New York Film Festival
US Theatrical Release: February 5, 2014
US Distributor: Kino Lorber
Like in his Morality Tales, A Summer’s Tale captures the biting euphoria of attraction and ennui. In 1975’s Night Moves, Gene Hackman has the unforgettable line, “I saw one of those Rohmer pictures once; it was sort of like watching paint dry.” Now that’s a little unfair, but it hits on an essential trait of the auteur: he’s in no big hurry. One thing that makes this film so appealing is that the characters seem to drift into one another. It may be 1996, but they’re refreshingly unconcerned with millennial schizophrenia or the globalizing machinations of the WTO. Instead, they indulge a lazy curiosity about life and romance, which they vocalize in meandering dialogues. And there’s something very sexy about good conversation. Although Rohmer was in his 70s when he directed the film, it isn’t stodgy or melancholic. It’s sweet and meditative, circling that enduring restlessness of youth.