Cat People

Cat PeopleJacques Tourneur’s immortal 1942 original version of Cat People is a wonderful exercise in the macabre. The stark black and white B-movie is a cult classic and has a mysterious element to it that raises it above other schlock of its era. In that film, Simone Simon plays Irena, a fashion artist living in New York, who falls in love with Kent Smith. But Irena believes that she suffers from an ancient curse that whenever she is emotionally aroused, she will turn into a ferocious panther. Paul Schrader attempts a Reagan-era update of the film, adding another and rather unsavoury element to the film. It is not nearly as suspenseful and seems largely an excuse to look at a disrobed Nastassja Kinski. Also, the emotional arousal of the original is replaced with sexual arousal and what we have is an erotic gorefest that should not have been made.

Based on a story by DeWitt Bodeen, the legend he concocted has cat people originating long ago, when humans would sacrifice women to leopards, who mated with them. Sounds kinky. Cat people, so the story goes, look like humans but must mate with other cat people. In Schrader’s updated and incestuous film, Paul and Irena Gallier (Malcolm McDowell and Nastassja Kinski) are brother and sister and seem to be the only cat people left. Unfortunately, Irena is in love with Oliver Yates, played by John Heard, but she knows in order to keep the species alive, she must mate with her brother. This is a ridiculous premise and while it may stay truer to the original story than the 1942 version, this is one of Schrader’s weakest films. Overly stylish, the soft porn element takes precedence and Kinski, who should be playing Cold War femme fatales, is miscast in this film, which is more about incest than cat people. It is a nice film to look at – the set design and cinematography are well done and highly original – but a film must have some substance, and this director just did not get that.

Schrader was having an affair with his leading lady, which fell apart during the shooting of the film. Kinski even wanted some of her sex scenes removed, or at least toned down, but the people at Universal would not comply. Schrader claims it is one of his more personal films, but probably not because of what we see on screen. What amazes me most is that Kinski and Heard would even agree to do this movie. McDowell has always sought odd roles in disturbing movies or has at least been typecast to play bizarre characters (if…, A Clockwork Orange, O Lucky Man, Britannia Hospital), so one would expect this from him. But a movie like this is a potential career killer and one could make the case that after her star turn in Roman Polanski’s Tess, Cat People and to a lesser extent the Al Pacino bomb Revolution hurt Kinski’s box office potential tremendously. Schrader may never have recovered either. After the screenplays for Taxi Driver and Raging Bull and his brilliant early work which includes Blue Collar, Hardcore and American Gigolo, Cat People was a misstep and he would not direct another decent film until Affliction in 1997.

Cult film aficionados will appreciate Cat People, especially if they like Tony Scott’s vampire cult film The Hunger, which also appeared in the early 1980s or if they like horror movies involving leopards, panthers or other sundry wildcats. But for the rest of us, stick to Interview With the Vampire or less disgusting cult favourites.

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Resident Evil: Apocalypse

Resident Evil: ApocalypseZombies must find it easy to get work these days. There were the hordes of British undead in 28 Days Later, and zombie shoppers in Dawn of the Dead. Now, Resident Evil: Apocalypse gives a steady pay cheque to the living impaired.

Resident Evil: Apocalypse starts just before the final moments of the first Resident Evil instalment. A bio-weapons experiment has gone out of control. Grisly creatures hunt down the citizens of Raccoon City. Victims of a genetically engineered plague become the walking undead, mauling and infecting others, creating a growing army. Behind it all: the Umbrella Corporation (boo, hiss). They are described as the world’s largest company; kind of Microsoft multiplied by Exxon and Boeing. They have so much cash that they built the compact metropolis of Raccoon City over their secret research base, the Hive. The city is at their beck and call, with giant gates to shut off the roads out of town. All of the city’s many closed-circuit surveillance cameras are wired into on central location. They can launch more troopers, bombers and helicopters than George W. on a good day. To the citizenry, this is the Apocalypse. To the Umbrella Corporation, this is a test bed. In this experiment, they release two subjects, including Alice (Milla Jovovich), former head of security turned next step in evolution.

With The Fifth Element, Joan of Arc and this movie behind her, I have to ask: does Jovovich stand outside the movie studios with a sign that reads, “Will play super being for food”? Her nemesis is, well, The Nemesis. Her companion Matt from the last movie, has been transformed into this massive killing machine (think Terminator programming built into an Alien).

Resident Evil: Apocalypse is not ingenious by any stretch – the dialogue has moments of being undercooked and times where it’s pared too close to the bone to leave more room for action. Both heroines, Alice and Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory) went to the Lara Croft closet for wardrobe. Great eye candy, but in a city full of people trying to bite into you, shouldn’t you opt for a good pair of jeans or at least a jacket? There are points where you have to ask: “How stupid are these people?” For example: the city is overrun with the reanimated dead. Where do our heroines go? They seek escape via graveyard. And setting this in Raccoon City is distracting; it’s a name that invites camp – at least one attack from a rabid undead raccoon, please. But no. You have all the standard horror and action movie ingredients: the countdown to certain doom; horrible things leaping out of the dark; a wisecracking black guy (Mike Epps); the mad scientist who will have his comeuppance; a bad guy with a European accent; and lots of gore. The characters are given a reason to live (hey, you need that in every video game – er, movie): they must find the daughter of the scientist who unleashed this plague. Do that and the scientist will get them out of the doomed city.

This is the first feature directed by Alexander Witt, but he has cut his teeth as a second unit cinematographer or camera operator on some of Hollywood’s forefront work in recent years (Blackhawk Down, Gladiator, Pirates of the Caribbean and many others.). While a little too fond of pixilated scenes and explosions, his work is generally effective. Like the first Resident Evil and writer Paul W.S. Anderson’s other summer entry, Alien vs. Predator, this is moderately entertaining mayhem wrapped over a commercial franchise.

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Wild Strawberries

Wild StrawberriesIngmar Bergman’s Wild Strawberries is a touching look at old age and how memories from the past can affect us as mature beings. The main character, Professor Isak Borg, is on a journey of self-discovery, examining his life, assessing his worth amidst the people who made up his existence. The voices inside his head – replayed from past experiences – are the voices each of us hears in solitude, the same voices that become inaudible and faint as we enter into the world. They make us human and unique, and give us the strength to be free and search for our personal liberty.

While Borg believes in his past decisions in love, life and relationships, he realizes they were merely necessary consequences of his temperament, of the notions, either false or true, that he formed so very long ago of what happiness ought to be. It startles him to see how swiftly time passes, as so many of us are startled by the universal question of mortality meeting reality. The strangest things come into his thoughts; the smallest details of his failed marriage become unveiled; his regret as a father and a lover are illuminated; the slightest nothingness showcases his loneliness.

Hallucinations, illusions, nightmares and delusions fill Professor Borg’s waking sleep with vivid contrast – of what is that it is not, and of what is not that it is – becoming a false reality of his own making. He searches for shade from the burning figurative brightness that overwhelms his memory. Faces and symbolic scenes from the past that never existed spring upon him in moments of traumatic catastrophe – images of a human being collapsing onto the ground, watches with no hands on them, a casket for the dead with his own body in it looms before his astonished eyes. Director Ingmar Bergman (The Seventh Seal) explores all of these questions with great insight, using visual imagery and intelligent dialogue to take the viewer inside of a man making peace with his life, something not always pretty, but necessary as he learns to embrace his inevitable death.

A sickly 78-year-old director Victor Sjostrom plays Borg with warmth and real tenderness, as sympathetic a character as you will probably ever see in a film. In real life, Sjostrom was a lonesome man with an unsound body. During the making of Wild Strawberries, he would often forget his lines, and they had to move certain scenes indoors because of his failing health, the cast and crew never knowing if he would be back alive again for the next day of filming. Bergman was amiable and warm-hearted, working around Sjostrom’s schedule, making sure he was home by 5:15 every afternoon and ensuring that he had his “medicinal” whisky at precisely the same time, day in and day out.

Wild Strawberries is a gripping portrait of one man’s life. It’s sad, lovely and generously presented. Bergman once said that the best review he had ever received was from a childhood friend who told him that Wild Strawberries made him think of his Aunt Berta, who was sitting all alone in Borlange. “I couldn’t get her out of my thoughts,” he continued, “and when my wife and I came home I said let’s invite Aunt Berta over at Easter.” Strangely affecting, artful and fervidly astute, Wild Strawberries flickers past us on the screen like a dream escaping us as we awake from restless slumber. It is both richly satisfying and touching, never using faithless emotions to tug at our heartstrings. Unique delicacy creates its true feelings, and Bergman’s brave inventiveness secures its place among the greatest films.

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Dont Say A Word

Don't Say A WordDon’t Say A Word is a thriller that’s aimed at freaking out parents. Nathan Conrad (Michael Douglas) is a New York City psychiatrist whose Thanksgiving Eve is interrupted by a call from a colleague (Oliver Platt goes just a bit too far over the top in his small role), asking him to immediately see a particularly troubled young patient. The 18-year-old girl has gone from catatonic to violent, and she appears to have a secret that she’s not willing to share. This is where Conrad and the movie’s ‘nasty, improbable plot’ first meet. A band of vicious robbers has arranged for Conrad to get this call in hopes that he will extract the girl’s secret – which is the key to recovering a $10 million jewel left behind when the gang members were sent to prison ten years earlier after a double-cross. The thugs are now fresh out of prison, and they’re intent on finding the jewel. They figure Conrad can help, so they snatch his eight-year-old daughter, set up an elaborate monitoring system to keep tabs on Conrad, and turned the screws on him – offering Conrad’s daughter in exchange for the number.

In a race against time and unable to call for outside help, Conrad and his bed ridden wife (Famke Janssen) struggle to get back their daughter. The entire scenario – not exactly sensible to begin with – shifts to the absurd as we see the lengths that the robbers have gone to entangle Conrad in their plot. You’d think they might just check public records to find the location they are seeking; that would make this whole elaborate, overblown blackmail plot unnecessary. But even if you accept the premise that Conrad’s help is needed, the way it’s pulled off is just too much to believe. It’s as if the filmmakers couldn’t stomach the thought of missing even a single thriller cliche in bringing this film to the screen. After a gripping start, this movie wanders off into a swamp full of hackneyed old thriller movie myths, such as:

mental illness is caused by a single childhood trauma, and if memories of it can be extracted, the victim will be on the road to recovery;

a middle-aged man on his own can do better than the entire New York City law enforcement community, so should always decide to go it alone rather than getting help;

when the cops do get involved, it’s a single cop who gets to play along with the middle-aged hero’s Lone Ranger game;

bad guys never finish the job, preferring to leave threads hanging for the good guys to grasp and eventually use to pull themselves back into the conflict.

Don’t Say A Word has decent acting, great pacing and comes oh-so-close to working as a thriller, but it wastes its potential by allowing the cliches to multiply out of control. Why does the storyline include the blackmail of two psychiatrists rather than just one? Why monitor Conrad’s home electronically rather than just moving in and taking the whole family hostage? If the bad guys have helpers who weren’t in jail with them, then why wait ten years before trying to recover the jewel? The questions could just go on and on, and believable answers just aren’t there.

Those who don’t mind movies trotting out implausible nonsense time and time again will probably find this a satisfying suspense thriller. For the rest of us, this movie is little more than wasted potential – a would-be thriller that could have been great fun, but instead is as appealing as a plate of cinematic leftovers.

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SwirlSwirl tells the story of two advertising executives who embark on an interracial relationship that threatens their friendship and their careers.

Swirl, a title drawn from a term used to describe interracial relationships, stars Carl Anthony Payne II as Beethoven and Stephanie Denise Griffin as Sarah, childhood friends who start an advertising agency together. Their decision to move in together begins a slow ride toward destruction. Bay (the short version of Beethoven’s name), a black man, and Sarah, a white woman, have known each other for many years, having played together as children. Sarah has decided she wants to move on to the next stage in their relationship by getting involved romantically. She attempts many different methods to get involved with Bay and eventually they begin their relationship.

The problem is that Bay doesn’t believe in interracial relationships and develops severe doubts about his relationship with his best friend. His buddies are supportive, but his conscience is not. Taking the guise of a black woman, Bay’s subconscious takes great pains to convince him that his relationship is immoral and attempts to sabotage its future. Matters escalate further when they receive a high-paying ad contract and Sarah, in an attempt to stem the tide of one of her employer’s advances, reveals to him that she and Bay are involved. While the man isn’t opposed, his comments to a co-worker lead to the collapse of the contract offer and cause an intense rift between tell-the-world Sarah and keep-it-secret Beethoven.

Payne does a wonderful job balancing his performance opposite a cast of relative lightweights. His sympathetic hero allows the audience to better understand his moral dilemma and support his eventual decision. On the other hand, Griffin gives a transparent performance that lacks any range of emotion and borders on comical. Her role as the naive, but loving partner is ineffectual, causing the audience to never grow attached to her otherwise bubbly personality. The remaining performers, a cadre of stereotypical characters, are dull, unenergetic and lacking focus.

The greatest problem the film has is its weak screenplay, by Les Wilson, who also acts as the film’s director. The story is a mish-mash of romantic events that span the breadth of an hour and a half. It feels like the film drags on through eternity and rambles to a conclusion that leaves you in suspense of the ultimate fate of these supposedly destined lovers.

Swirl is a painful mess that is only partially saved by Payne’s believable performance. The movie plays like an after-school special designed for adults with hokey characters and a paper-thin plot. Some audiences will enjoy its wit-deprived ramblings but a more discerning group will find very little of merit.

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CherishLike an undercooked, Southwestern-style cake, (chocolate, mangoes, jalapenos) Cherish lumps together a bunch of half-baked, weirdly disparate ideas and expects it all to taste really good. Well, it is unique and original, even pretty fun to sink your teeth into at times. But sooner or later, you’re forced to ask yourself exactly what it is you’re eating.

A hot-pink ‘80s soundtrack and red-hot Robin Tunney keep Cherish percolating nicely, but trying to make a romance-comedy-murder-mystery into a retro music video is a tall order. The parts don’t really fit. Zoe (Tunney) is a daydreamer, unlucky at love; she fills her nights with a string of unsuccessful dates and an obsession with ‘80s pop music. That’s the least of it though, because someone decides to frame her for drunkenly killing a bicycle cop. Her lawyer is savvy enough to earn her the relative freedom of house arrest while she awaits trial, but then the real trouble sets in. For the viewer, that is.

A number of decent music video sequences set to great oldies like Hall and Oates and The Association illuminate Zoe’s cute, aimless flailing about in her rather nice industrial loft/prison. But how ever will she ‘find the real killer’ while resisting the charms of her loveable, hang-dog parole officer (played with sweaty naivete by Tim Blake Nelson), or earn the trust of the gay midget who lives below her?

You wouldn’t think these things would concern her, since she’s about to go to prison for 25-to-life. But since there’s really no logical motivation for, or any attempt to examine how she came to be in such a mess, it doesn’t matter. In the end it’s all settled in incomprehensible, improbable, unbelievable and pointless fashion anyway, so it really shouldn’t be of concern to anybody.

Shreds of MTV style and a cringe-inducing homage to Run, Lola, Run round out director Finn Taylor’s bag of tricks for this misguided misadventure. Somewhere along the line, someone should have noticed that the plot is shattering in dozens of odd directions, and that none of the interesting aspects are developed satisfactorily, but it’s too late for anyone to turn back now. Nelson and Tunney generate some charming, if undeveloped sexual tension, but neither that, nor 1.5 minutes of screen-time for an oddly bloated Jason Priestly can salvage Cherish. If it’s to your tastes, I suggest that you buy the soundtrack, but skip the movie.

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SobiborSobibor extends the completeness of the film Shoah; itis not so much a sequel as an addendum to the previous movieis exhaustive examination of the Nazi holocaust during the Second World War.

Even as documentary movies go, itis on the spare side. A few long panning shots of the Polish countryside where Sobibor, a German-run concentration camp stood, as well as images of modern Warsaw, and quiet rail-yard scenes intermingle with intensely lit shots of the sole interview subject.

That subject, Yehuda Lerner, shot either in medium or close up, appears as if heis an amoeba under a microscope. Heis not trapped and heis not being interrogated, though the deceptively bright lighting might sometimes bring that thought to mind. However, his every move and emotion seem magnified one hundred times by the circumstances, and by the tale he recounts.

Lerner spent a large part of his teen years repeatedly trying to escape from concentration camps, only to eventually be recaptured each time. Serendipity once allowed him to get far enough away from camp that when he was recaptured he was simply returned to a different camp, Sobibor. At Sobibor he and a handful of other strong laborers and craftsmen were chosen to help with the maintenance and operation of the camp, thus sparing them from a quick trip to the gas chambers.

Seizing upon this opportunity, Lerner and a few others worked with a Jewish captain of the Red Army to plan an uprising, an event that had never before succeeded in any concentration camp. The detailing and execution of this meticulous plan, which hinged upon stereotypical German punctuality, comprises the bulk of the movie, which ends with a lengthy enumeration of the 250,000 people executed at Sobibor.

Itis a harrowing tale, though Lerner tells it with almost serene calm. Often, director Claude Lanzmann quietly inserts shots into the interview, which somehow subtly tie in with Lerneris words, enhancing the sense of horror that was an everyday reality to internees at the camp. Lerneris twitching cheek is the only thing that betrays any darker emotions he might be feeling. However, even as he solemnly asserts (and quite rightly) that he and the others were doing the only logical thing, you can sense his pride, even joy, at his monumental accomplishment in the face of insanity. At these moments, itis nearly impossible to assess your own emotions while watching.

The interview is conducted in German, French, and Hebrew, with a translator for Lerner and English subtitles for Western audiences. It creates an interesting, drawn out effect, as everything thatis said is repeated. Lanzmannis simple, meditative approach seems to support this effect, however. There is no room for misinterpretation or lack of understanding of this interview.

Sobibor, drawn from footage Lanzmann shot but didnit include in the nine and a half hour-long Shoah, benefits greatly from being allowed to stand on its own. It is a serious and exacting microcosm of a very dark time in world history, which makes for engrossing, sobering viewing.

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S.W.A.T.Once you get past its familiar storyline and a few ludicrous twists along the way, S.W.A.T. is about as much mindless fun as you can expect from a good old fashioned American Western transplanted to 21st century Los Angeles. There’s plenty of shootin’ and killin’, independent-minded, slightly roguish and occasionally brawling good guys, and an over-the-top by-the-book authority figure for all of us to thumb our noses at. Just substitute cars and helicopters for horses and we’re all set for a rootin’ tootin’ shoot out.

The good guys are Sergeant Dan ‘Hondo’ Harrelson’s (Samuel L. Jackson) S.W.A.T. unit. Composed of hot-shots, trouble-makers and feisty rejects, the team is trained to be elite – and to thumb their noses at the hated Captain Fuller (Larry Poindexter), who’s control freak my-way-or-the-highway approach has everybody disliking him. Jim Street (Colin Farrell) is Hondo’s prize pupil – rescued from a desk job after an earlier S.W.A.T. scandal, he’s

Very much an outsider, and very much a talented cop.

But character development isn’t what S.W.A.T. is all about; this movie is about action and gunfire – lots and lots and lots of gunfire. There are some great action scenes here, from the opening bank heist break-up to the bad guys attempting to get away by flying a leer jet into and off of a downtown L.A. bridge. Those scenes, and many in between, are full of pulse-pounding action, with bullets flying, cars crashing, explosions and fire all over the place, and some rather spectacular choreography of it all by director Clark Johnson and his team. You get the sense that Johnson relished the opportunity to move from television, where he has done a lot of directing, to a big budget, big screen spectacular. And he takes full advantage.

If you’re looking for a story that holds together, this one certainly does not. It’s ludicrous, with most of the action surrounding a nasty French crime kingpin (Olivier Martinez) who’s been caught in L.A. and has announced to the assembled television cameras in his way into jail that he will pay $100 million to anyone who breaks him out. Naturally, crooks and thugs all over Los Angeles take him at his word, and before you know it, they’re shooting down helicopters, hijacking motorcades, bribing cops and generally making it difficult to get the bad guy out of town and into a federal prison in the countryside. But where there’s Hondo’s S.W.A.T. team, there’s got to be a way, and that’s what more than two hours of S.W.A.T. is all about.

This is Rambo cop work at its best, with the team brawling among themselves, constantly acting heroic, and pretty much never taking a break. These are true American heroes, to be sure. Thankfully, David Ayer and David McKenna’s screenplay makes room for a few decent twists – not everyone on the team turns out to be perfect, and it’s even possible for a good guy to get shot here. But for the most part, this is a movie that requires you to turn your brain to neutral, sit back and enjoy the carnage. Johnson keeps it coming almost non-stop throughout the movie, and the special effects are as good as the pace – frenetic and as realistic as cartoon-style violence can possibly be.

Perhaps this is just my U-571 of 2003, but I really enjoyed S.W.A.T. Perhaps this was because I was able to put out of my mind questions such as, “How many really intelligent movies could have been made for S.W.A.T.’s $70 million budget?”

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Welcome to Mooseport

Welcome to MooseportSomebody appears to have forgotten to tell the makers of Welcome to Mooseport that substituting painfully contrived quirkiness for quality comedy never works out very well. So it’s no surprise that we aren’t won over by a pet moose, a deaf (and therefore always shouting obnoxiously) old town councillor, or an elderly nudist jogger – all among the painfully quirky resident of Mooseport, Maine. Mooseport is, also home to nice-guy hardware store owner and fix-it specialist Handy Harrison (Ray Romano), and – now, after his retirement from the oval office – two-term U.S. President Monroe Cole (Gene Hackman).

The laughs just never quite get going as Cole arrives back in town – he’s going to live in Mooseport at his old summer place because his ex-wife got the family home in their divorce settlement – and is promptly drafted into running for mayor. And he’s got an election on his hands, as Harrison has also filed to run for the position, both men believing they would be the only candidate. Thus we get the film’s ridiculously contrived main conflict, which plays out with all the drama and interest of the Utah primary.

Hackman has been known to take the occasional ‘pay cheque’ role in crappy movies, and while he does his bit here to capably play the alternately spoiled, conniving and principled Cole, there are few opportunities for him to excel, and he certainly doesn’t seem inspired to rise above the material. Romano’s laconic acting style seems just right for his role here, his first shot at big screen prominence. In fact, the whole thing feels very much like something Romano is familiar with – a television sit-com. It’s just too bad that we need to sit through 111 minutes of movie to get something less than 30-minutes-worth of comedy out of the deal.

In addition to the wacky secondary characters I’ve also mentioned, there’s a super-competent Presidential assistant who’s quietly fallen in love with Cole (Marcia Gay Harden), another perpetually nervous and browbeaten assistant (Fred Savage), a campaign mastermind (Rip Torn), a nasty ex-wife (Christine Baranski), and a whole host of loveable (well, unbearable, really) idiosyncratic locals. Most important of the supporting characters – although painfully under-used here – is Maura Tierney’s character, Sally Mannis, who is Harrison’s long-time girlfriend and soon another prize in the contest between Harrison and Cole.

There are a few funny scenes along the way here, including a golf match during which Cole learns for the first time that secret service agents have been covering for his terrible game all these years, but most of what goes on here is lacklustre. We’re presumably not supposed to care that the story is built of one preposterous premise after another, as it’s supposed to simply add to the movie’s charm. But it doesn’t. Sure, a retired President would agree to run for mayor. Sure, his ex-wife would make a public spectacle of their divorce negotiations. Sure, down-to-earth Sally would start dating the President while still attached to Harrison. And on it goes. The movie simply isn’t funny enough for us to uncritically go along with it all.

Despite its talented cast, Welcome to Mooseport doesn’t have the comedic spark to succeed. Director Donald Petrie and screenwriters Doug Richardson and Tom Schulman each have plenty of hits and misses littering their professional resumes. This one most certainly qualifies as another miss.

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Tale of Springtime, A

Tale of Springtime, AEric Rohmer’s films have always troubled me. Critics routinely call them the film event of the year but I find them dull, filled with conceited and annoying dialogue, and in the case of Claire’s Knee, trashy and ridiculous. Rohmer’s six moral tales, of which Claire’s Knee and Chloe in the Afternoon are the most prominent, are hampered by a moral prissiness that gets on the nerves of even a French film aficionado. While A Night at Maud’s is enjoyable, his films for the most part, A Tale of Springtime included, can be summed up by Gene Hackman’s now immortal line in the underrated 1975 thriller Night Moves, “I saw one of his films once; it was like watching paint dry.”

A Tale of Springtime is the first of Rohmer’s ‘tales of four seasons.’ Having seen two of the others, I do prefer A Tale of Springtime. But all the same, this is a little film that is tedious and the lead actors do not exactly shine – they just exist on Rohmer’s screen. Anne Teyssedre plays Jeanne, a warm and open philosophy teacher who meets Natasha (Florence Darel), a young music student, at a party. Natasha’s father Igor (Hugues Quester) has left Natasha alone for the weekend, taking off with his girlfriend Eve, who is not much older than his daughter. Jeanne is invited to spend the weekend with Natasha. She accepts the invitation, but it soon becomes apparent that Natasha has ulterior motives. Could it be that the young girl is trying to set Jeanne up with her father upon his return? I will not give away the subtle plot, only that it does drag on, leading to an unsatisfactory ending.

Like the other ‘tales of four seasons,’ this one suffers from a continuing problem: would the viewer ever want to be like or be with any of the character’s portrayed on screen? I cannot find anything relevant or interesting about the lives of these people. To me, this film is like watching your neighbours. Follow their activities for one weekend and you can probably create as stimulating a film as Rohmer’s. That said, Rohmer’s films are their own entity, that is, there are none exactly the same although meditations on morals and relationships are a recurring theme in films by Ingmar Bergman, Woody Allen and Federico Fellini. But Rohmer is not in the same league as those three because, frankly, his characters and stories are not as interesting. French film aficionados might find something satisfying about this little film, but apart from a unique Gallic perspective on the relationships that are presented in the film, there is little to hold the viewer’s interest.

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