When you get floored by the work of an unequivocal master of cinema, it’s hard to come up with the words.
For the first time in 20 years, the screens of our city of Toronto has been screening the work of a cinematic master that I have to admit…I didn’t know a damn thing about.
Dangerous Liaisons: The Films of Eric Rohmer is currently running at the TIFF Bell Lightbox until August 28th and has been delighting audiences eager to take this man’s work in either for the very first time, or in hopes of revisiting some old favorites.
As a film critic with a modicum of self-respect I always do try to get myself into situations to see films that I have never seen before. I just don’t feel like I am doing my job if I don’t try to get myself out to as many things as I can so I can truly see the whole picture that the global cinematic landscape is trying to give me. However this time out, I felt something that I had never felt before when finally settling in for my first Eric Rohmer experience which was Ma Nuit Chez Maud where we get the story of a young catholic engineer (Jean Louis Trintignant) who is tested with a crisis of both faith and passion as he finds himself torn between a young idyllic blonde who anyone in their right mind would want to marry and a vivacious raven haired divorcee who is alluring in ways that he had never thought possible.
To put it simply I was stunned at the scope and the brilliance of what on paper seems like a simple piece of storytelling and film work. Eric Rohmer as both a writer and a director took what was a very basic scenario and allowed the complexities of humanity in these situations rise to the surface and made settings like a simple apartment where three people are having a conversation feel grandiose and epic like no others has ever done before.
Ultimately I was actually a little embarrassed that I had never seen a single frame of this man’s work. I felt like I had been slacking on the job. So in the days and weeks to come, I tore into this man’s back catalog like a man possessed. I felt like I had to, if only as a point of personal pride as I jumped into the likes of movies like Claire’s Knee, Chloe In The Afternoon, The Marquise of O, A Good Marriage & Pauline At The Beach among others and I came to the conclusion that many others before me already had. This is one of the masters of the moving image…and it was more than a little shameful that it took me this long to catch up to him.
With screenings of Le Rayon Vert and The Aviator’s Wife coming up on August 11th and 12th with iconic French actress Marie Rivière at the screenings to introduce them, this is proof positive that in this world with so much consumable media at our fingertips, there’s still so much that those of us who truly adore and appreciate the moving image still need to see.
Dangerous Liaisons: The Films of Eric Rohmer will be running until August 28th and for anyone who has never heard of this man’s work, I cannot recommend this more. For those of you have, it never hurts to be reminded of some of the amazingly beautiful pieces of cinema that exist out there in the landscape where the multiplex and tent-pole blockbuster tend to bring us down and make us forget the genuine things that the cinema can really do, when left in the right hands.
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