Summer (Le Rayon Vert) (1986): Eric Rohmer’s Fifth Film in his Acclaimed Series, Comedies & Proverbs

Celebrating the anniversary of Eric Rohmer’s 1986 classic Le Rayon vert with a new 35mm print.

Le Rayon vert, which translates as “the green ray” though was retitled Summer for the original US release, was cited as a career high, a flawlessly constructed, shot, and performed feature.

Made during a production break on Le Rayon vert and released the following year, Four Adventures, which has rarely been screened since its initial release, is equally deserving of a place among Rohmer’s loveliest films

Winner of the Golden Lion and FIPRESCI prize at the 1986 Venice Film Fest, Le Rayon vert follows the independent but insecure Delphine, played by Rohmer regular Marie Rivière (Autumn Tale, The Aviator’s Wife), a newly single young Parisian who cannot find a holiday companion for the month of August.

She meets and rejects suitors and potential friends as she glides and stumbles in her longing for connection. Rivière, who also co-wrote her role, delivers one of the most captivating lead performances in any of the filmmaker’s works.

Rohmer’s genius was in creating on screen lives that were at once ordinary and rarefied, seemingly simple yet complex, in movies of uncommon sensitivity and emotional reserves.

Declaring Le Rayon vert one of 1986’s best movies, list that included Hannah and Her Sisters, The Sacrifice, and Vagabond, Andrew Sarris praised the film in The Village Voice saying, “No other film of the year has struck me with the force of Rohmer’s ultimate masterwork. No film that I can recall in years has provided such a profound insight into the human condition…The miracle of Le Rayon vert is how Rohmer has penetrated so deeply into the psyche of an ordinary person with none of the usual stigmata of high drama. Le Rayon vert is a singularly ennobling episode in the history of cinema. And in terms of the bloated budgets of the so-called motion picture industry, this beauty has simply walked out of the water and onto the beach like a Botticelli Venus.”

Opening with Rimbaud—“Ah for the days/That set our hearts ablaze”—Le Rayon vert is the fifth film in Rohmer’s acclaimed “Comedies & Proverbs” cycle that also includes The Aviator’s Wife (1981), A Good Marriage (1982), Pauline at the Beach (1984), Full Moon in Paris (1984), and Boyfriends and Girlfriends (1987).

Le Rayon vert takes its title from the 1882 Jules Verne novel of the same name, about a young Scottish woman traveling the coast with potential suitors, and determined to observe the optical phenomenon of the brief green ray of light that occurs just as the sun sets. Rohmer temporarily put a halt on the shooting schedule of Le Rayon vert in order to capture an actual green ray on film. Four Adventures of Reinette and Mirabelle was made “while waiting to finish his masterpiece Le Rayon vert. And guess what—it’s just as great” (Time Out New York). Both films were shot by expert lenser Sophie Maintigneux (Godard’s King Lear).

 

The singular and rarely screened Four Adventures follows two young women—one from the city, Mirabelle (Jessica Forde), the other from the country, Reinette (Joëlle Miquel)—as they hilariously encounter the inevitable characters of modern Paris: the impossible waiter (Philippe Laudenbach), the metro-station hustler (Le Rayon vert’s Marie Rivière), and the snooty gallery owner (Fabrice Luchini), While in the countryside, they await a transcendent atmospheric event similar to the green ray. The titular characters explore philosophical questions in classic, lighthearted Rohmer dialogue that is “a perfect example of Rohmer’s emphasis on people talking, relating and living… his multiple story film—one of his most charming—describes the Aesop’s Fable-style friendship of two young women. The simplest incident becomes the most momentous occasion, as in each story’s title: ‘The Blue Hour’, ‘The Waiter’, ‘The Beggar, the Kleptomaniac and the Hustler’, and ‘Selling the Painting’. Together they structure an invaluable arc turning nature into art. Four Adventures belongs to that epiphanal period following Le Rayon vert.” (Armond White, New York Press). This summer’s presentation affords audiences a rare opportunity to catch this lesser-known Rohmer discovery.

 

Both new 35mm prints were struck from the original negatives. Following their runs at BAMcinématek, both films will go on to tour internationally in Chicago, Vancouver, Cleveland, Stamford, Oklahoma City, and more.

 

Le Rayon vert (Summer) screens daily Thu, Jun 9—Wed, Jun 15:
2 (Fri—Sun only), 4:30 (Thu, Mon, Tue), 6:50, 9:15pm

 

1986 | 98min | Color | 1.37:1 | The Film Desk

 

Press screening Thu, May 26 at 2pm

 

Four Adventures of Reinette and Mirabelle screens daily Wed, Jun 20—Tue, Jun 26:
2 (Fri—Sun only), 4:30, 6:50, 9:15pm

 

1987 | 95min | Color | 1.37:1 | The Film Desk