Conte d'automne (Autumn Tale)

Directed by Eric Rohmer
Starring: Marie Rivière, Béatrice Romand, Alexia Portal, Alain Libolt, Didier Sandre.
MPAA Rating: PG for mild thematic elements.

Review by Matt Heffernan
August 14, 1999

Director Eric Rohmer presents his fourth, and presumably final, entry in his Four Seasons series: Autumn Tale. Starting with A Tale of Springtime in 1990, these films have all been successful, but lightweight romantic comedies. This one is no exception.

Marie Rivière stars as a bookseller, named Isabelle, in a small industrial town in France. Her best friend is Magali (Béatrice Romand), a winemaker who owns a vineyard across the river. Magali has been alone since her husband died, and her children have now grown up. Her son, Léo (Stéphane Darmon), has a girlfriend in college named Rosine (Alexia Portal). She is actually more interested in spending time with Magali. Both Isabelle and Rosine want to find Magali a man, even though she claimd that she's too buy with the harvest for romance.

Rosine convinces her high school philosophy teacher, Etienne (Didier Sandre) to meet her, even though he is more interested in Rosine. Meanwhile, Isabelle places a personal ad on behalf of Magali. When a man named Gérald (Alain Libolt) answers it, Isabelle meets him, pretending that she is the one interested (in a somewhat Cyrano-esque fashion). She eventually breaks it to him that she is happily married, and that her friend is the one who is available. Isabelle's daughter is getting married, and both she and Rosine invite their prospective suitors to meet Magali there.

Once all these characters, and their rather complicated relationships, are introduced, the story moves along very well. One of the first scenes, when Magali gives Isabelle a tour of the vineyard, is used for exposition of these characters, but it goes on way to long, and almost loses the audience. But, a lengthy exposition is expected with this story, but it still could have been trimmed down.

The script is full of funny moments, but there are no big laughs. It has mostly little chuckles, but the spirit of the film is very charming. It has a very old fashioned appeal. One could imagine this film being made fifty years ago, with little changing. It is an ideal date movie (unless you are gay, in which case I would have to recommend Trick).

Now that Rohmer is approaching 80, I suppose that he doesn't mind ending this series now. It has served him well.


For more information, go to the Internet Movie Database:
Conte d'automne (1998)

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Autumn Tale (1998) -- VHS


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Review © 1999 Matt Heffernan