Eric Rohmer David Bromwich - Essay

David Bromwich

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[Rohmer's] subject has made him the master of what might be called the soft irony.

Unfortunately, his repertoire so far is narrowly circumscribed. His diapason is made of chords neither higher nor deeper than the soft ironic…. [In Chloe the ironies] turn to fluff, about to blow away…. [There is] the problem of style in Rohmer's films…. His movies … bear the same relation to the possibilities of cinema that closet drama bears to the possibilities of theater…. Still, the truth is that Rohmer's stories have not demanded anything beyond the means he uses, since every turn of a plot revolves around those small motions of grace in the eyes, the mouth, the voice of a character which might as well be seen occurring indoors. (pp. 222-23)

[Something] has gone awry, for Chloe is more fascinating than, according to Rohmer's moral, she has any right to be. Chloe is trying to charm the hero into infidelity; toward which end she must charm us as well, if the story is to be effective; but in fact she intrigues us far more than does the hero….

[With] the gradual caving in of any substance in his tempted hero, Rohmer has made [this] boring soul the subject of Chloe. Films about this character, however much they try for the subtle or jostling ambiguity, are at last failures in persuasion…. Actually, we get not so much ambivalence as hesitation—the chronic and unnerving hesitation of a coward….

The gap has widened between Maud and Chloe: no longer does the hero resist seduction for reasons of the heart which the mind will never understand. Rather, it is an affair of will, the merest velleity. This movie is good fun all the same, the way Rohmer always is…. (p. 223)

David Bromwich, "Angst-pushers & Austenites," in Dissent (© 1973, by Dissent Publishing Corporation), Vol. XX, No. 2, Spring, 1973, pp. 222-23.