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Eric Rohmer's Six Moral Tales (The Criterion Collection)

4.6 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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(Aug 15, 2006)
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The Criterion Collection
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Product Description

The multifaceted, deeply personal dramatic universe of Eric Rohmer has had an effect on cinema unlike any other. Gently existential, hyperarticulate character studies set against vivid seasonal landscapes, Rohmer's audacious and wildly influential series defined a genre. A succession of jousts between fragile men and the women who tempt them, the Six Moral Tales unleashed onto the film world a new voice, one that was at once sexy, philosophical, modern, daring, nonjudgmental, and liberating. Six-disc box set includes the films: The Bakery Girl of Monceau (Boulangre de Monceau, La) (1963) Suzanne's Career (Carrire de Suzanne, La ) (1963) My Night at Maud's (Ma nuit chez Maud ) (1969) La collectionneuse (Collectionneuse, La ) (1967) Claire's Knee (Genou de Claire, Le ) (1970) Love in the Afternoon (Amour l'aprs-midi, L') (1972)

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Audiences love or hate the films of Eric Rohmer. The magnificent Criterion set of the French director's Six Moral Tales, his first film cycle, contains the films that first brought Rohmer to international attention--particularly My Night at Maud's, Claire's Knee, andLove in the Afternoon--in gorgeous film-to-dvd transfers, accompanied by a bounty of short films and other extras. Watching any of these films, even the short features that begin the series (The Bakery Girl of Monceau and Suzanne's Career), you will discover if Rohmer is for you. To some, his examinations of social mores and the psychology of love are absorbing, subtle, and sublime; to others, they're meandering, talky, and flat. But even his detractors must acknowledge that Rohmer draws out the twists of joy and anguish, brief and ephemeral, that haunt lovers as they grope towards security and happiness; and though his visual approach is rigorously simple, his images--thanks to cinematographer Nestor Almendros--are luminous.

The Bakery Girl..., only 23 minutes long, has all the basic elements: A man, infatuated with one woman, flirts with another, all the while comforting himself with self-serving rationalizations and a comic lack of self-knowledge. This film's simplicity makes it more charming and satisfying than the more awkward efforts of Rohmer's next two films, Suzanne's Career (about a student who idolizes a callous older boy and only too late realizes that the girl they've been mocking may have a better grasp on life) and La collectioneusse (about a love triangle at a countryside estate; oddly, though released two years before the next film, it's presented as the fourth in the series), though each has moments of insight and delight. The remaining three movies are masterpieces: In My Night at Maud's, a Catholic engineer (the superb Jean-Louis Trintignant, Three Colors: Red) wrestles with his morals and his desires while spending the night with the enigmatic and alluring Maud (Francoise Fabian, 5 x 2). Claire's Knee gently mocks Les Liaisons Dangereuse as a man about to be married is goaded by a female friend into pursuing an infatuation with a young nubile nymph. And the last of the series, Love in the Afternoon (also known as Chloe in the Afternoon) follows a husband whose unconsummated affair with an old friend almost capsizes his happy marriage. What's most remarkable about this series is that, though each has virtually the same plot, watching all of these films in close succession only highlights their intricate differences and the complex shadings of delusion and yearning. Rohmer's work grows more fascinating the more familiar his methods become. Some filmgoers consider "nuance" code for "boring," but anyone who finds the collision of hearts and minds more exciting than car crashes will find Six Moral Tales revelatory and rewarding. --Bret Fetzer


Special Features

  • New, restored high-definition digital transfers, supervised and approved by director Eric Rohmer
  • Exclusive new video conversation between Rohmer and Barbet Schroeder
  • Bonus short films by Eric Rohmer: Presentation, or Charlotte and Her Steak (1951); Nadja in Paris (1964); A Modern Coed (1966); The Curve (1999); and Véronique and Her Dunce (1958)
  • "On Pascal" (1965), an episode of the educational TV series En profil dans le texte directed by Rohmer, on the French philosopher Blaise Pascal, the subject of debate in My Night at Maud's
  • Archival interviews with Rohmer, actors Jean-Claude Brialy, Béatrice Romand, Laurence de Monaghan, and Jean-Louis Trintignant, film critic Jean Douchet, and producer Pierre Cottrell
  • Video afterword by filmmaker and writer Neil LaBute
  • Original theatrical trailers
  • New and improved English subtitle translations
  • "Six Moral Tales" book featuring the original stories by Eric Rohmer
  • Booklet featuring Rohmer's landmark essay “For a Talking Cinema,” excerpts from cinematographer Nestor Almendros's autobiography, and new essays by Geoff Andrew, Ginette Vincendeau, Phillip Lopate, Kent Jones, Molly Haskell, and Armond White

Product Details

  • Format: Multiple Formats, Box set, Black & White, Dolby, Full Screen, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: French (Dolby Digital 1.0)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 6
  • Rated:
    PG
    Parental Guidance Suggested
  • Studio: Criterion
  • DVD Release Date: August 15, 2006
  • Run Time: 480 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000FUF7CQ
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #24,862 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Eric Rohmer's Six Moral Tales (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Criterion has provided us with the nicest French cinema bonanza since their Antoine Doinel cycle set of a few years ago. These Rohmer chat-fests are a litmus test for cinephiles. American Nouvelle Vague-inspired '60's director Arthur ("Bonnie and Clyde") Penn had mouthpiece Gene Hackman say in Night Moves: "I saw a Rohmer film once. It was like watching paint dry." On the other hand, Rohmer is Quentin Tarantino's favorite director. (Weird as that seems, they share a love of discursive dialog). These movies basically follow a formula -- deeply confused men, snared up in conflicts between flesh and spirit (usually represented by the two women in their lives), work out their confusions through marathon conversations. Like the much-used Henry James analogy, the viewer will either find these moral pilgrimages-though-talk tiresome or transcendant, depending on your attention span. Meantime, stunning cinematography (usually by natural light wizard Nestor Alemndros) pin-points seasonal changes with subtle shadings. These are connisoeur's works, and if you dont know 'em, sample some on Netflix before buying unseen based on reputations. Like Henry James' novels, you either reject 'em out of hand, or else become addicted. This reviewer is an addict, of course.
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First, for those unfamiliar with Rohmer's work, I strongly recommend renting or Netflixing "My Night at Maud's" or "Claire's Knee".

In my personal opinion, everyone should love Rohmer's style, but I will admit, from personal experience, that it may take a couple viewings before you become hooked. Rohmer's style is the epitome of subtlety. You won't find flashy jump cuts, over-the-top sound tracks, or beams of light piercing through a window casting the lead actor in a wash of bright light at the "moment of revelation".

Rohmer's style demands some commitment on the part of viewers--especially those of use who have been raised on standard Hollywood fare. But, oh, that commitment is rewarded hundred-fold once you become accustomed to the intimate style and subtle pacing of Rohmer's movies. He is one of the great masters of cinema.

Now to those who are already familiar with Rohmer's works . . .

I am one of those people who already owns DVD copies of most of Rohmer's films. One of my big gripes through the years has been the off-handed production of these DVD sets. Often it seems the movies have been rushed onto DVD with minimal restoration. Enter Criterion.

The Criterion set of "Six Moral Tales" is well up to their high standards of video and audio restoration. The visual look of these films is quite likely in line with what the original prints must have looked like when these movies first received theatrical release. I understand that Rohmer himself was involved in the restoration, which I'm sure didn't hurt.

In my opinion, the restored films are reason enough to get these sets. However, Criterion makes sure to lavish this box set with a treasure trove of bonuses.
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NOTE: these reviews of six films of Eric Rohmer's are not a buying guide. If you have the slightest interest in cinema (and why else are you here?) you must buy this set, one of the most essential collections in cinema. Watch the films, then tell me if you agree with what I say.

ERIC ROHMER'S Six Moral Tales series of films is a fascinating way to watch a major talent develop seemingly from nothing. They are available from Criterion in the USA and in a complete Rohmer set from Hong Kong (which includes the Criterion release minus most of the extras).

THE BAKERY GIRL OF MONCEAU (La Boulangere de Monceau) 1962
The Bakery Girl of Monceau is Rohmer's first attempt to turn a book of short stories ' the Moral Tales ' into film. It is a simple film running for 20 minutes, photographed in black and white, with non professional actors, natural sound, and the dialogue and commentary synchronised not too convincingly during post production. The streets of the city, the shops and the passers-by seem to get more attention than the central characters. The film has a strong documentary feel to it.

A young student is attracted to a girl he sees in the street, strikes up an acquaintance with her, then, during her mysterious disappearance, spends his time trying to seduce the bakery girl of the title, on the grounds that she doesn't matter to him. He finally wins her confidence, but drops her abruptly when the girl he has been looking for suddenly reappears.

The theme of the series makes its appearance. A man finds himself attracted to a woman, gets involved with another whom he regards as 'unsuitable', frees himself from the second woman and goes back to the first.
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Though it retails for a steep $100, intellectual romantic adults will want to own the magnificent Criterion DVD boxed set of ERIC ROHMER'S SIX MORAL TALES. Each film is individually boxed in a slim case, and the whole set comes in an attractive and sturdy bookcase. It is not a viable rental item from, say, Netflicks because you will want to have the entire bookcase contents in front of you at once--see a movie, read the corresponding chapter in a separate 56 page booklet of critical essays on all six essays, maybe read the related pages in a 262 page paperback book with the movies in narrative form because the movies themselves are so hellishly talky that you will miss a lot of the English subtitles, then maybe see the movie a second time. This is a feast for lovers of Eric Rohmer, romantic films, and French movies. Actually, it is nothing less than a semester-long college course in Rohmer's work.

Moral Tale #1 is the 23 minute B&W "THE BAKERY GIRL OF MONCEAU" (1962). The essence of Rohmer is already at work this early--a male narrator infatuated with two different women; Paris locales and a semi-documentary style; 16mm with single takes after a long rehearsal period because of budget limitations; a lot of non-professional actors sometimes playing variations of their real selves and creating their own dialogue; non-stop intelligent conversations in French with exhausting English subtitles. A law student meets a lovely young woman, loses her, befriends a plump and likeable bakery employee, gorges himself on her pastry to be around her, then rather unceremoniously dumps her at the end when the first girl shows up. Incidentally, Monceau is a district of Paris.

Also in B&W and rather short (55 minutes), Moral Tale #2 is "SUZANNE'S CAREER" (1963).
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