Academic journal article French Forum

An Auteur for All Seasons: An Interview with Eric Rohmer

Academic journal article French Forum

An Auteur for All Seasons: An Interview with Eric Rohmer

Article excerpt

The following interview took place in April 2008 in Eric Rohmer's office in a Paris apartment building.

BERT CARDULLO: I'd like to focus our discussion today on your Six Moral Tales, M. Rohmer, because they constitute your first, and arguably most important, series, to be followed of course by the Comedies and Proverbs and the Tales of the Four Seasons.

ERIC ROHMER: That's fine with me. It was with the Moral Tales, you know, that I came to the conclusion that audiences and producers would be more likely to accept my ideas in this form than in any other. Instead of asking myself what subjects were most likely to appeal to audiences, I persuaded myself that the best thing would be to treat the same subject six times over--in the hope that by the sixth time the audience would come over to me. It is better, in fact, to see the Moral Tales--and the Tales of the Four Seasons or the Comedies and Proverbs--as a distinct collection. There is a relationship between all the films in each of these three series, and that is where the real interest lies. The public often tells me that I make films which resemble each other, and it is right, but this is normal on my part because I am a complete auteur--that is, someone who creates the film, who treats the subject, and at the same time I am the man who shapes the image.

BC: Let's begin with a little background. What happened to the French New Wave, anyway?

ER: Well, it's not the New Wave anymore, I can tell you that! We're old now. Obviously Truffaut died some time ago, but both Claude Chabrol and Jacques Rivette have made films recently, and Godard--I understand that he is preparing to make another film. If we have the same cinema as when we started out, or if we have evolved, it's not up to me to say. It's true that Godard has probably grown more as a filmmaker, but he has grown away from the public, whereas Chabrol has become a more commercial filmmaker. Still, I think we are all loyal, more or less, to the same principles we had when we first constituted the New Wave. Myself, I have kept the same idea of cinema and I always do my films in my own little way: films that are not too expensive. I like shooting nature, even when I am in a studio, and I give extra importance to the poetry of cinematography. So I am still very much adhering to the theories I expounded in my early film articles.

As for the accusation I sometimes hear that I am not "modernist" or "leftist" enough, I say that I am not afraid of not being modern; you have to go against the grain of the times, I believe. That said, I have always been interested in using new technology. The first article I ever wrote--even before my work for Cahiers du cinema--was for a journal called Revue du cinema, and it was on the use of color over black and white. This was at a time when most people preferred black and white, but I thought, as I do now, that there was room for both. And I said so. I also championed the use of direct-sync sound in this early piece.

BC: Have you always been interested in the cinema?

ER: No. Icouldn't say that. I became interested in cinema very late, when I was a student. Up until then I despised the cinema; I didn't like it--I just liked reading, painting, and then music a little later. I didn't take any part in theater; I didn't go to it very much. I liked the classical French theater of Racine, Corneille, Moliere, but to read it rather than see it. I came to like cinema because I liked silent films, but I didn't discover film through just going to the movies.

BC: And then you began to write for Cahiers du cinema?

ER: No. When I discovered the silent film, I wanted to make films. I tried to make amateur films, but I didn't have any money, I didn't have any equipment; I didn't have anything at all, and so I had difficulties. I joined film societies and got involved in organizing these, and I made friends there and with these friends we had the idea--we were all very young then--of publishing a Film Societies Bulletin; we even wanted to start a critical review. …

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