August 25, 2007

Today's Yesterday's Masterpiece of the Week

Dr. X posts this from Quiberon Bay:

"What psychic vortex has begun pulling me toward The New Yorker films of the early 80s? First Chan is Missing, now Pauline at the Beach. The difference is that I had seen Chan is Missing before, in New York, when it was a cause célèbre, a surprise hit among the intelligentsia of a city that, before Wall Street ran amok, had a certain sophistication.

"Pauline at the Beach was another discovery back in those days, but I never saw it. I found Rohmer later, almost randomly, on the Foreign shelf at the video store. As the years went by I started knocking back Rohmer movies like potato chips - The Collector, A Winter's Tale, A Tale of Springtime - I lost track of which ones I'd seen and which ones I hadn't, and didn't care, because they're smart movies and you can watch them more than once. But I'd given Pauline, the big crossover hit, a miss. I figured that to be as popular as it was it must have been one of Rohmer's least Rohmer-like efforts.

"This was incorrect. Pauline at the Beach is not Rohmer's best film, not close, but he doesn't make bad ones. It has wonderful acting performances, particularly by the innocently smoldering Amanda Langlet:

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"And it is a stark reminder that we live in the Age of Ersatz Entertainment. In this movie six actors working on three sets (beach, house #1, house #2) create something beautiful, something that stays with you and makes you feel a little better about being human. Rohmer is not unique in this - in fact, he is a throwback, playing the same games as Shakespeare did in his romantic comedies, and frankly, playing them about as well.

"Vincent Canby's original authoritative review is here. I can't find an Ebert review - Siskel had it as one of his top ten of 1983, but Ebert back then was more of a Psycho Beach Party kind of guy. (Can't blame him, I used to be too.) Anyway, kind words from Ebert on Rohmer, in 2001, here."


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