The Film Society has announced Eric Rohmer’s Moral Tales, September 16-29. All six films will be screened in new restorations, highlighted by two adjacent weeklong revivals of La collectionneuse and Love in the Afternoon.

“His works all end decisively with some new insight, for those of us forever under his spell, to savor.” —Andrew Sarris

In 1950, the French publisher Gallimard rejected a manuscript of a short story collection called Moral Tales, submitted by a thirty-year-old Eric Rohmer. In the early sixties, by then an influential critic and a late-flowering movie director, he resolved to adapt the stories for the screen, each inspired by F. W. Murnau’s Sunrise, in which a man, committed to one woman, is tempted by another. The resulting series, which took a decade to complete, established Rohmer’s international filmmaking reputation. Thrillingly intelligent portraits of self-centered, articulate, often foolish men and the women they belittle, idolize, stalk, and long for, staged with offhand visual imagination and full of electrifying, high-stakes verbal showdowns, the six Moral Tales represented an entirely new way of handling male-female relationships on screen.

None of the tales are chiding or moralizing (“It would be nonsense to believe that I am proposing a moral of some kind,” Rohmer once said of them), but they all show a distinctive willingness to expose their characters’ insecurities and pretentions—to put their male heroes through punishing educations. Taken together, these films are a kind of proving ground for Rohmer and his collaborators, including the producer Barbet Schroeder, the cinematographer Néstor Almendros, and the many vital, intellectually driven actors who found in them the space to develop new ways of playing out their characters’ debates and indecisions.

The Moral Tales still remain the films most associated with Rohmer, and most representative of his many contradictory traits as a filmmaker: strict and yet playful, conservative and sensual, reticent but always ready to judge.

Organized by Florence Almozini. Special thanks to Les Films du Losange; Janus Films.

Tickets will go on sale Thursday, September 1st. See more and save with the 3+ film discount package!

Claire's Knee

Claire’s Knee


All screenings take place at the Walter Reade Theater (165 West 65th Street).

Claire’s Knee / Le genou de Claire
Eric Rohmer, France, 1970, 106m
French with English subtitles
There’s nothing in Rohmer’s body of work quite like the conversations that take place throughout this lakeside morality play between Jerome, an engaged diplomat, and his confidante, an ironic, rueful novelist played by Rohmer’s own close friend Aurora Cornu. Their debates center on Jerome’s infatuation with the two teenagers he finds himself living near while his fiancée travels abroad. Laura is fiercely intelligent, friendly, outgoing, and unwilling to be used. It’s her quieter, more sullen sister, Claire, however, whom he eventually gravitates toward with predatory interest. (On the film’s release, one reviewer compared him to a fairy tale wolf.) The two older characters spend much of the movie picking apart Jerome’s sinister motives, providing an unpredictable, running critical commentary on the rest of the movie’s action. Among Rohmer’s most iconic movies, Claire’s Knee is also one of his most troubling and ambiguous—in which it’s tantalizingly hard to tell where the director’s sympathies lie.
Saturday, September 17, 8:45pm
Sunday, September 18, 4:30pm
Saturday, September 24, 4:30pm
Sunday, September 25, 8:45pm

La collectionneuse
Eric Rohmer, France, 1967, 87m
English and French with English subtitles
The Moral Tales are populated by vain, insecure men who insist on finding moral justifications for self-centered behavior. But none of Rohmer’s male characters fit that description better than the two bohemians—an art dealer and an experimental painter—who retreat to a Riviera summer house for a quiet getaway and find themselves sharing the space with a sexually threatening young woman in this cunning, bitter psychological study. Rohmer and cinematographer Néstor Almendros shot La collectionneuse quickly and cheaply, on color 35mm, with an array of mirrors and other devices to exploit their setting’s rich natural light. The resulting film’s cheery palette, full of seductive golden tints and deep nocturnal blues, underlines how thrillingly and ruthlessly Rohmer excoriates his heroes. This was a turning point for the director and the series.
Friday, September 16, 2:30pm, 4:30pm, 6:45pm & 8:45pm
Saturday, September 17, 2:30pm & 6:45pm
Sunday, September 18, 6:45pm
Monday, September 19 – Thursday, September 22, 6:45pm & 8:45pm

Love in the Afternoon / L’amour l’après-midi
Eric Rohmer, France, 1972, 93m
French with English subtitles
The last of the Moral Tales ends the series with a burst of new, disruptive elements: interludes of experimental electronic music; fantasy and dream sequences; risqué sex scenes; a married male protagonist who works in an office! Rather than a left-field departure, however, the film is a grand summation of the Moral Tales’ preoccupations and themes. Happily married with a young child, Frédéric finds his comfortable life upset when he re-encounters old flame Chloe, a confident, rootless, glamorous woman who teases him for having become so bourgeois. As Rohmer’s recent biographers Antoine de Baecque and Noël Herpe have put it, if the previous Moral Tales centered on men who have to choose between two women, Love in the Afternoon is “a utopia of doubling”—a dream of committing fully to two mutually exclusive courses of action. “You’ve never dreamed of living two lives at the same time, simultaneously but in a complete and perfect way?” Frédéric asks Chloe. “That’s impossible,” she tells him. “It’s a dream.” Few of Rohmer’s films critique that dream with such moving urgency.
Friday, September 23, 4:30pm, 6:45pm & 8:45pm
Saturday, September 24, 6:45pm & 8:45pm
Sunday, September 25, 2:30pm & 6:45pm
Monday, September 26 – Thursday, September 29, 6:45pm & 8:45pm

My Night at Maud's

My Night at Maud’s

My Night at Maud’s / Ma nuit chez Maud
Eric Rohmer, France, 1969, 111m
French with English subtitles
Rohmer had always conceived of this story—of a Catholic mathematician torn between indulgence and asceticism—as the third installment in the Moral Tales, but he shot it fourth, having taken years to extract commitments from his wary producers and from his reluctant star, Jean-Louis Trintignant. No other actor, Rohmer insisted, could capture the agony this character goes through, having to choose between the prim churchgoer he hopes to marry and the confident divorcée at whose house he ends up sleeping during a snowy Christmas Eve. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine anyone else conveying that combination of intelligence and boyish idealism, stooped reticence and contained lust, as well as Trintignant. And while Rohmer’s financiers balked at the prospect of a black-and-white film stocked with long conversations about free will and Pascal, My Night at Maud’s became one of Rohmer’s biggest popular and critical successes—a luminous, sexy, unerringly intelligent treatment of romantic and religious indecision.
Saturday, September 17, 4:30pm
Sunday, September 18, 8:45pm
Sunday, September 25, 4:30pm

Suzanne’s Career / La carrière de Suzanne
Eric Rohmer, France, 1963, 55m
French with English subtitles
“Eighteen is an age without excuses,” began the 1949 short story Rohmer later revised as the treatment for the second of the Moral Tales. Rohmer made few excuses for the two college-age men at the story’s center, who spurn what they call the “career” of an outgoing young woman they both pursue. In Suzanne’s Career, Rohmer and his collaborators—a team of friends and fellow cinephiles that again included Barbet Schroeder—developed a handful of devices that recurred throughout the later Tales: causal medium-to-long takes, a modest battery of well-used locations, and extended dialogue scenes that pay close attention to how these people, with all their pretentions and prejudices, would actually talk. Suzanne’s Career now seems like both a revealing predecessor to La collectionneuse and a trenchant, observant drama all its own.

Screening with:

The Bakery Girl of Monceau / La boulangère de Monceau
Eric Rohmer, France, 1963, 23m
French with English subtitles
The first of Rohmer’s Moral Tales—and the only one not adapted from a short story he’d written long before—is an effervescent and subtly cutting portrait of a young man (played by Rohmer’s longtime associate Barbet Schroeder) whose romantic interest swings between a well-to-do student and the bakery girl he casually courts when he loses track of his real object of affection. Nimble and acute, The Bakery Girl of Monceau is the closest Rohmer ever came to working in the pioneering style of his younger New Wave colleagues and a clear incubator for the ideas he’d explore in the rest of the series.
Sunday, September 18, 2:30pm
Saturday, September 24, 2:30pm


The Bakery Girl of Monceau