Film

The Choreography of Conversation

Talk Is the Main Pleasure in Eric Rohmer's A Summer's Tale

The Choreography of Conversation

A SUMMER'S TALE Don’t shut up.

In A Summer's Tale, we see the ballet of a conversation. This, for me, is the core pleasure of French director Eric Rohmer's cinema: the movement of (usually two) actors during a long (and usually heady) discussion. For example: As a man says something philosophical about love to a woman, he walks to a nearby huge rock and puts a hand on it; as the woman responds by saying something about how his ideas about love are self-serving, she steps away from the man and looks at some trees in the distance. The flow of words is sequenced with the motion of bodies. Rohmer also manages to keep these movements as realistic as possible. They never overflow from the zone between natural and artificial, walking and dancing. Rohmer made A Summer's Tale in the late part of his long (five-decade) and celebrated career (he died in 2010), so the movement here is especially fluid.

Because nothing really happens in A Summer's Tale—a handsome young man visits an ugly resort town with lots of tourists, loud children, and bad music, and has a thing with three young and beautiful women—what holds our attention is this lyrical and at times hypnotic conversational choreography. The characters do say lots of interesting things to each other; the talk is not empty. But the sheer beat of the words keeps the actors moving in time, moving in circles, moving toward or away from each other. In fact, the scene where three of the main characters—Gaspard (Melvil Poupaud), Margot (Amanda Langlet), and Solene (Gwenaëlle Simon)—are actually dancing to music in a nightclub called the Hut is one of the worst scenes in the movie. These people do not know how to dance to actual music. They can only groove to the beat of a long conversation. recommended

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