Éric Rohmer (born Maurice Henri Joseph Schérer or Jean Marie Maurice Schérer, March 21, 1920 January 11, 2010) was a French filmmaker and member of the French New Wave.
Rohmer originally worked as a literature teacher before moving to Paris to work as a journalist. While there, he developed a passion for film and eventually began writing criticism for the film journal Cahiers du Cinema, working with Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut, Claude Chabrol, and Jacques Rivette. Like them he would eventually go into filmmaking. However, Rohmer took longer than his friends to establish himself, not breaking out until My Night at Maud's in 1969.
Rohmer is somewhat atypical compared to his colleagues for several reasons. He was about a decade older, a conservative Catholic, and his films (with a few exceptions such as Perceval le Gallois) were much more classical in style.
His low-budget, low-key, talky style has been quietly influential on independent film for decades. Individual filmmakers as varied as Woody Allen and Richard Linklater have adopted many of his techniques, and movements like Dogme 95 and Mumblecore take numerous cues from his work (Greta Gerwig specifically cited him as an influence on Lady Bird).
Believe it or not, he also made a contribution to the career of Chris Rock. I Think I Love My Wife was an Americanized remake of Rohmer's 1972 L'Amour l'après-midi (Chloe in the Afternoon, the Sixth Moral Tale).
- Sign of Leo (1959)
- Six Moral Tales:
- The Marquise of O... (1976)
- Perceval le Gallois (1978)
- Catherine de Heilbronn (1980)
- Comedies and Proverbs:
- Le trio en si bémol (1987)
- Four Adventures of Reinette and Mirabelle (1987)
- Tales of the Four Seasons:
- The Tree, The Mayor, and the Mediatheque (1993)
- Rendezvous in Paris (1995)
- The Lady And The Duke (2001)
- Triple Agent (2004)
- Romance of Astree and Celadon (2007)
Tropes associated with Éric Rohmer include:
- All Men Are Perverts / All Women Are Lustful: The classic Rohmer formula is to take a somewhat repressed man who tries to hide his heavy obsession with women, have an attractive woman who's very confident and frank about her sexuality enter his life, then let the sparks fly.
- Anti-Hero: His protagonists tend to be a bit flawed.
- Betty and Veronica: His films often feature a Love Triangle or Love Dodecahedron, and this pair usually figures into it, but it will frequently be a down-to-earth man competing against a flashier man for a woman's attention.
- Dramedy: His best films have a good balance of laughs and poignancy.
- Epigraph: The Comedies and Proverbs films all open with a proverb that spells out the main theme of the story.
- Flyover Country: He likes setting films in the French equivalent of this, i.e. outside of Paris (though he also has some Paris films too).
- He Also Did: As mentioned above, he started out as a film critic and scholar, and his writing in that realm is still highly regarded. He's credited with the being the first film expert to fully appreciate Alfred Hitchcock as an artist.
- Ms. Fanservice: You can count on at least one really stunning woman in a Rohmer film, and often several, and usually in flattering outfits.
- Multiple-Choice Past: While not exactly a Reclusive Artist, he was very protective of his personal life. Many facts about him (such as his real name) aren't known for certain.
- Nom De Plume:
- He took the name Éric Rohmer from director Erich von Stroheim and author Sax Rohmer because he felt his deeply religious family would disapprove of his film career. Allegedly his mother died without knowing that her son was a world-renowned director.
- Rohmer and his longtime editor Mary Stephen collaborated on the music for most of his films in The '90s (not full scores, usually just short pieces, often as Source Music) and were credited under the joint pseudonym Sébastien Erms, with "Erms" being an acronym for Éric Rohmer and Mary Stephen, though as his biographers have pointed out, you could also interpret it as Éric Rohmer and Maurice Scherer.
- No Budget: His austere style meant he usually didn't need to spend a whole lot on his films.
- Production Posse: His most important frequent collaborators were producer Barbet Schroeder, cinematographer Néstor Almendros, editor Mary Stephen, actress Béatrice Romand and actors Pascal Greggory and Fabrice Luchini.
- Realistic Diction Is Unrealistic: Zig-zagged. His characters tend to be well-educated, well-spoken people, but he'd also script things like stammering or hesitation, which sometimes threw his actors off.
- Scenery Porn: Often set his films in picturesque French locations, like the Riviera or the Alps, but the scenery typically takes a back seat to the characters and dialogue.
- Signature Style: Dramedies about young people in nature who have long conversations about sex, love, religion, philosophy, etc. His films also avoid techniques like close-ups and soundtrack music. His films usually feature many scenes of the characters travelling between places, in order to emphasize how much travelling we do in our daily lives. He also divides his films into groups like the Six Moral Tales or the Tales of the Four Seasons.
- Similarly Named Works:
- 1967's La Collectionneuse usually has an Untranslated Title in English-speaking countries to avoid confusion with other works called The Collector (particularly the John Fowles novel and its 1965 film adaptation).
- 1972's L'Amour l'après-midi translates as "love in the afternoon", but since there was already a famous movie with that title, the English language release was called Chloe in the Afternoon, continuing the pattern from his last two films of having a woman's name in the title (My Night at Maud's, Claire's Knee).
- Deliberately invoked with The Green Ray, which is also the title of a Jules Verne novel that gets talked about in the film, and A Tale of Winter, which has the same French title as William Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale (Conte d'hiver), and the protagonist attends a production of it.
- Slice of Life: His plots tend to be very simple stories about a small group of people and their interactions with one another, and will often stop entirely to focus on conversations the characters have, most famously the nearly 40 minute discussion about Pascal's Wager and morality in My Night at Maud's.
- Speech-Centric Work: Rohmer's films are very dialogue driven.
- Unreliable Narrator / Unreliable Voiceover: Rohmer stated that he wasn't really interested in depicting a story the way it happened, but the way the protagonist remembers it as he/she is recounting the tale. One way he liked to examine this is by having the protagonist do a voiceover narration, but the narration often veers into Fauxlosophic mode, with the narrator clearly either misinterpreting what was actually happening or making transparently flimsy rationalizations for their behavior.