The latest is an excellent set six Eric Rohmer movies, collected under the banner of “Six Moral Tales.” All six films were produced in the span of 1963 to 1972, an essential decade in filmmaking history. Watching them together in one set, as I have in the last few weeks, is fascinating on multiple levels. Not only are at least two of them widely considered masterpieces, but one can see Rohmer’s development as a filmmaker, especially when compared to the first two, as well as the entire industry over that groundbreaking period of time. Each disc in this three-disc set contains two films along with a massive amount of archival material, including additional short films by Rohmer, interviews, and more.
Breaking it down by disc:
“The Bakery Girl of Monceau” & “Suzanne’s Career”
The first two films of the “Six Moral Tales” weren’t widely recognized until after Rohmer became an international success with films three and four (actually released in the opposite order, but we’ll get to that later). Rohmer himself was reportedly displeased with the production values of these short films, but they’re fascinating now to watch in the way one can see a masterful filmmaker developing his visual language. The connection from the 23-minute “The Bakery Girl of Monceau” to films like “My Night at Maud’s” is strikingly easy to make visually, and not just because all six films follow a similar story structure.
In “Bakery Girl,” a man becomes obsessed with a stranger he sees on the street, stalking the sidewalk in the hope of seeing her again. In doing so, he stumbles into a bakery, where he begins a flirtatious relationship with a worker there. He eventually ends up with his original object of obsession. It’s less refined than later Rohmer, but a great short film nonetheless.
The same could be said for “Suzanne’s Career,” which contains one of Rohmer’s most traditional love triangles in that it’s about a shy man falling for his outgoing friend’s girlfriend, Suzanne. It’s clunkier narratively than later films, and also struggles technically. Even remastered for Criterion, it looks degraded.