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With: Melvil Poupaud, Amanda Langlet, Gwenaëlle Simon, Aurelia Nolin
Written by: Eric Rohmer
Directed by: Eric Rohmer
MPAA Rating: NR
Language: French, with English subtitles
Running Time: 113
Date: 06/05/1996

A Summer's Tale (1996)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Lazy, hazy, crazy

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Though some of us saw it on DVD, Eric Rohmer's A Summer's Tale (1996) finally gets its first official U.S. big screen release in 2014. It's the third film in Rohmer's "Four Seasons" series, which also included A Tale of Springtime (1990), A Tale of Winter (1992), and Autumn Tale (1998).

Rohmer fans should not confused A Summer's Tale with the 1986 film Le Rayon Vert, which translates to "the green ray," but which U.S. distributors decided to call Summer. That film was actually part of Rohmer's "Comedies and Proverbs" series, and not the "Four Seasons" series.

Anyway, A Summer's Tale is as light, warm, and breezy as a summer's day. It concerns Gaspard (Melvil Poupaud), a young musician who travels to a seaside town near Breton, where he awaits his girlfriend, Lena (Aurelia Nolin). While he waits, he befriends a cute waitress at a local restaurant, Margot (Amanda Langlet). They begin spending their days together, going for walks. Margot claims to have a boyfriend traveling somewhere and doesn't seem interested in being anything more than friends with Gaspard. But she does set him up with another beauty, Solene (Gwenaëlle Simon).

Solene likes Gaspard and wouldn't mind being his girlfriend, but she suspects -- correctly -- that he's not ready to commit to her. Finally, Lena shows up and starts acting crazy. In the end, Gaspard doesn't know what to do.

Like Rohmer's Claire's Knee, A Summer's Tale has a great deal of theorizing and discussion, as well as theories and theories tested. Gaspard doesn't mind going out with all three girls, just to see what happens, to see how he feels. Margot becomes the one he reports back to, and of course, she turns out to be the one he's most comfortable with.

Rohmer's films are talky, but as with Ozu, he knows how to make his films feel cinematic and not static. He gives us a concept of time passed, of meals eaten, of travel and weather. In other words, these characters are talking about their lives while they live them, trying to figure it all out as it happens. At one point, Gaspard simply says, "I don't know. This situation has never happened to me before."

I suspect that the comparison to Ozu is not passing. I think that, like Ozu, Rohmer's films probably deepen and grow more profound the more of them one sees. But even if you haven't seen the other films in the "Four Seasons" series, or any other Rohmer films, A Summer's Tale is still so enjoyable, and can make you feel relaxed like a good vacation.

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