For, Jan. 16, 2015

I've always loved the works of French filmmaker Eric Rohmer, although they are certainly a matter of taste. As a friend of mine said back in the early 1980s when Rohmer's films were crossing over to America on a regular basis, "it's like watching paint dry."

Yes, Rohmer's films are slow going … or "deliberately paced," as we critics like to say … but they are rich in character and filled with subtle, rewarding touches.

Still, I understand why Americans have a problem with his movies — there's so much dialogue that reading the subtitles as they quickly fly by can become a chore.

Anyway, I'm delighted that Rohmer's "Four Adventures of Reinette and Mirabelle" (1987, not rated, in French with English subtitles) has finally been released on DVD in this country, thanks to the specialty label Kimstim.

Although the film had a 1998 release on VHS, it's been out of print in North America ever since. So this DVD debut is a real treat.

"Four Adventures of Reinette and Mirabelle" is perhaps Rohmer's most overt cinematic probing of human ethics, but Rohmer offers no easy answers. He lets us decide for ourselves whether the choices of his protagonists are right or wrong.

His other films, including those in his "comedies and proverbs" series ("Pauline at the Beach," "Boyfriends and Girlfriends"), are told in straight narrative story form, but "Reinette and Mirabelle" is composed of four short vignettes about two women with radically different views of the world and how they personally react to situations that arise in their lives.


The first is rather ethereal, the third is a fairly serious exploration of the film's overall theme and the second and fourth are more comic in nature – and very funny, in Rohmer's patented low-key style.

Aspiring artist Reinette (Joelle Miquel) meetes ethnology student Mirabelle (Jessica Forde) on a dirt road when Mirabelle's bike gets a flat. One is a city girl and one is a country girl, but Rohmer immediately turns audience expectations sideways regarding the two. He's not going to go down the expected movie path with either his stories or his characters.

The next three stories all deal specifically with ethical questions the two young women confront as they share an apartment in Paris, Mirabelle continuing her studies and Reinette continuing to paint.

In the end, audiences either take to Rohmer's work or they don't. For me, he is a delightful observer of human nature, and "Four Adventures of Reinette and Mirabelle" is a very enjoyable collection of those observations.

The film is not rated but is in PG territory with some mild profanities and some nudity depicted in Reinette's abstract paintings.