Criterion Sunday 342: “Eric Rohmer’s Six Moral Tales”

This box set takes in six films by French New Wave director Éric Rohmer, not his earliest films (his debut feature film was 1962’s The Sign of Leo), but probably the films which helped him to make his mark. The films are based on his own short stories (a translation of which is included with the box set, making up at least half of the packaging, being a not insubstantial book in itself), and start off with the short film The Bakery Girl of Monceau (1963), and the slightly longer Suzanne’s Career (1963). The first full feature length Moral Tale is the third, with which he started to really make his name, My Night at Maud’s (1969), nominated even for an Academy Award in the US. However, for production reasons it was the fourth to be made, while the fourth tale La Collectionneuse (1967) was filmed earlier. The series is rounded out by Claire’s Knee (1970), considered by some his masterpiece, and Love in the Afternoon (1972). Rohmer would go on to make films in two more overarching series, his “Comédies et proverbes” of 1981-1987 and “Contes des quatres saisons” (Tales of the Four Seasons) from 1990-1998, and it is from these three series that his most famous works come, such as The Green Ray (1986, aka Summer), which may be my favourite of his films.

As well as the six tales that give it its name, the box set also contains a number of Rohmer’s short films from both before and during the making of the Moral Tales, as well as some supplementary material. Each of these extras is linked to one of the six films, so I will add them to the individual entries.

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