Just as the narrator is in pursuit of a woman who, momentarily, seems to elude him, events bring him in contact with another. And, regardless of the charm and persuasion of the second, he will reject her in favour of the first, even when he is not yet assured of her possession. Thus, Eric Rohmer defines the recurred theme of his filmed contes moraux….
Rohmer's aim is less to creiterary cinema than to enrich cinema with the techniques of literature, which accounts for the imprecise literary aura of his films. (p. 6)
[Le Signe du Lion] captures the intense physicality of a time and a place: Paris in the month of August, deserted by the natives and overrun by the tourists; the cosmopolitan anomie of the Left Bank, the sudden gust of desolation as night falls; but also, a feeling for bonds made and broken over a bottle of cheap red wine on a sunny quai.
There is hardly any feeling of regression in the hero's shifting fortune. Instead, the film suggests that the man succumbs less to the force of circumstance than to the ever-present lure of Bohemianism that Paris traditionally represents to the outsider, so that Wesselrin's six weeks in hell become as well the last summer in every man's youth. In documenting the passage from artist to mountebank, Rohmer builds a limpidly linear film, the ends of the story-line stretching outside the running time of the picture, almost beyond the director's control. Again … we have simply wandered into the characters' world, walked a short way together and taken our leave as they go on to live another moment of their lives….
[Rohmer stated why he filmed his contes moraux:] 'I wanted to portray in film what seemed most alien to the medium, to express feelings buried deep in our consciousness. That's why they have to be told in the first person singular and why there has to be a commentary. The protagonist discusses himself and judges his actions. I film the process.' (p. 7)
[Of La Collectionneuse, he said:] 'The most fascinating aspect of the three characters is their argot de caste [individual way of speaking]. There were some allusions in Daniel's dialogue, for instance, that are still incomprehensible to me. It was indispensable for the picture that the actors collaborate in the mise en scène: I wanted very complex characters, not too black, not too white, impossible to define in a few words. Although they all belong more or less to the same generation, there are gaps of milieux, of sensibility. Each one had to have its own vérité.'…
La Collectionneuse becomes the intimate journal of a modern dandy with the soul of a Jansenist, the dilemma of a man wary of instinctual commitment and action (even in love), the portrayal of an artificial sensibility caught between emotion felt and emotion literalised….
Adrien's flight from Haydée … is not to be interpreted, as Rohmer's more virulent detractors have done, as a refusal of passion or an apology for impotence and non-action. In reality, it is the refusal of love as imposed by a time and place:...
(The entire section is 778 words.)