Six Moral Tales
Edition no. 342
Simple, delicate, and jazzy, the first of the “Moral Tales” shows the stirrings of what would become the Eric Rohmer style: unfussy naturalistic shooting, ironic first-person voice-over, and the image of the “unknowable” woman. A law student (played by producer and future director Barbet Schroeder) with a roving eye and a large appetite stuffs himself full of sugar cookies and pastries daily in order to garner the attentions of the pretty brunette who works in a quaint Paris bakery. But is he truly interested, or is she just a sweet diversion?
Bertrand bides his time in a casually hostile and envious friendship with college chum Guillaume. But when ladies’ man Guillaume seems to be making a play for the spirited, independent Suzanne, Bertrand watches bitterly with disapproval and jealousy. With its ragged black-and-white 16 mm photography and strong sense of 1960s Paris, Rohmer’s second “Moral Tale” is a wonderfully evocative portrait of youthful naiveté and the complicated bonds of friendship and romance.
In the brilliantly accomplished centerpiece of Rohmer’s “Moral Tales” series, Jean-Louis Trintignant plays Jean-Louis, one of the great conflicted figures of sixties cinema. A pious Catholic engineer in his early thirties, he lives by a strict moral code in order to rationalize his world, drowning himself in mathematics and the philosophy of Pascal. After spotting the delicate, blonde Françoise at Mass, he vows to make her his wife, although when he unwittingly spends the night at the apartment of the bold, brunette divorcée Maud, his rigid ethical standards are challenged. A breakout hit in the United States, My Night at Maud’s was one of the most influential and talked-about films of the decade.
France 1967 87 minutes Color 1.33:1 French Spine #346 A bombastic, womanizing art dealer and his painter friend go to a seventeenth-century villa on the Riviera for a relaxing summer getaway. But their idyll is disturbed by the presence of the bohemian Haydée, accused of being a “collector” of men. Rohmer’s first color film, La collectionneuse pushes the Moral Tales into new, darker realms. Yet it is also a grand showcase for the clever and delectably ironic battle-of-the-sexes repartee (in a witty script written by Rohmer and the three main actors) and luscious, effortless Néstor Almendros photography that would define the remainder of the series.
“Why would I tie myself to one woman if I were interested in others?” says Jerôme, even as he plans on marrying a diplomat’s daughter by summer’s end. Before then, Jerôme spends his July at a lakeside boardinghouse nursing crushes on the sixteen-year-old Laura and, more tantalizingly, Laura’s long-legged, blonde stepsister, Claire. Baring her knee on a ladder under a blooming cherry tree, Claire unwittingly instigates Jerôme’s moral crisis and creates both one of French cinema’s most enduring moments and what has become the iconic image of Rohmer’s Moral Tales.
Though happily married to his adoring wife Hélène, with whom he is expecting a second child, the thoroughly bourgeois business executive Frédéric cannot banish from his mind the multitude of attractive Parisian women who pass him by every day. His flirtations and fantasies remain harmless until Chloé (played by the mesmerizing Zouzou), an audacious, unencumbered old flame, shows up at his office, embodying the first genuine threat to Frédéric’s marriage. The luminous final chapter to Rohmer’s “Moral Tales” is a tender, sobering, and wholly adult affair that leads to perhaps the most overwhelmingly emotional moment in the entire series.
Details by Film
Love in the Afternoon
My Night at Maud's
The Bakery Girl of Monceau
- Moral Tales, Filmic Issues, a new video conversation with Eric Rohmer and Barbet Schroeder
- Rohmer’s short film Presentation, or Charlotte and Her Steak (1951)
- Rohmer’s short film Nadja in Paris (1964)
- On Pascal, (1965), directed by Rohmer for the educational TV series En profil dans le texte
- A 1974 episode of the French television program Télécinéma, featuring interviews with star Jean-Louis Trintignant, film critic Jean Douchet, and producer Pierre Cottrell
- Original theatrical trailer for My Night at Maud's
- Rohmer’s short film A Modern Coed (1966)
- A 1977 episode of the TVOntario program Parlons cinema, featuring an interview with Eric Rohmer on La collectionneuse
- Original theatrical trailer for La collectionneuse
- Rohmer’s short film The Curve (1999)
- An excerpt from the French television program Le journal du cinéma, featuring interviews with Jean-Claude Brialy, Béatrice Romand, and Laurence de Monahagan
- Original theatrical trailer
- Video afterword with director and writer Neil LaBute
- Rohmer’s short film Véronique and Her Dunce (1958)
- Original theatrical trailer
- Six Moral Tales, the original stories by Eric Rohmer
- A booklet featuring Eric Rohmer’s landmark essay “For a Talking Cinema,” excerpts from cinematographer Nestor Almendros’s autobiography, and new essays by Geoff Andrew, Ginette Vincendeau, Phillip Lopate, Kent Jones, Molly Haskell, and Armond White