In 1950, the French publisher Gallimard rejected a manuscript of a short story collection called Moral Tales, submitted by a thirty-year-old writer. In the early sixties, the writer in question—now an influential critic and a late-flowering movie director—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 Eric 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. They 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. Occasioned by our revivals of La collectionneuse and Love in the Afternoon, the Film Society is pleased to present Rohmer’s six Moral Tales—all newly restored—for two weeks only!

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