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Weekend Longform Video: The Bakery Girl of Monceau (1963)

Barbet Schroeder and Claudine Soubrier in Eric Rohmer's The Bakery Girl of Monceau (1963).

Barbet Schroeder and Claudine Soubrier in Eric Rohmer’s The Bakery Girl of Monceau (1963).

The Bakery Girl of Monceau is the first of Eric Rohmer’s series of Six Moral Tales, wherein a series of young men in pursuit of one woman become distracted by another.  Bakery Girl stars a very young Barbet Schroeder, founder of Films of Losange, the production company behind many films of the French New Wave, and later a director of narrative and documentaries.  Eric Rohmer was one of the oldest directors of the French New Wave, after an unsuccessful directing career in the 1950s.  Here, in the short form, he’s experimenting with editing and story before the mostly feature-length later instalments in his series.  The film is both a low-key slice of life, and fresh-feeling.  Criterion describes it as “Simple, delicate, and jazzy… shows the stirrings of what would become the Eric Rohmer style: unfussy naturalistic shooting, ironic first-person voice-over, and the image of the ‘unknowable’ woman.”

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Interview with Eric Rohmer (1981)

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“It started raining as the sequence in the park was finishing.  I hadn’t predicted the weather we would get as we’d be leaving the park.  So I said to myself, ‘Why not shoot in the rain, since our equipment is light?'”

Eric Rohmer’s films are deceptively simple, and usually the result of painstaking pre-production and agile improvisation by both cast and crew on set.  I like his films for thinking about process, because there’s a certain transparency to them: his films feel stripped down to the sparest collaboration of word, image, and sound, leaving the thought process of the filmmaker quietly visible on-screen.  Here his discusses his process varying over several of his films, in an interview recorded for France Culture in 1981. Continue reading