A Summer’s Tale

Conte d'été

Eric Rohmer, France, 1996


Margot asks Gaspard, who she’s just met, to accompany her to interview a sailor she needs to talk to as part of her ethnology studies. In the midst of this sequence, which could be a potential love match as part of the fiction of the film, Rohmer inserts a documentary on musical ethnology. He temporarily abandons his characters to their own doubts, strategies and procrastinations, confronting them with a genuine old sailor. Even though it is the character of Margot who leads the interview, we come to understand that it is the testimony of the sailor that matters to Rohmer. The sailor is filmed from the front, in a static shot, with a slight zoom, unadorned, focusing as much as possible on this tale from times gone by. The man describes with great precision, his job as a fisherman, choosing his words very carefully, before singing an old sea song. The whole scene is recorded live, the take doesn’t stop when he stutters or hesitates. At the end of the sequence, the spectator is brought back to fiction, through the second and final reverse shot on the two main characters, attentive spectator themselves, sat at the other end of the table, huddled together. We find here again Rohmer’s care of setting his characters in reality, whether linked to the location, like in the beach scene (see 1/The character in the world) or to the inhabitants, their daily routine and their story.