Today through the 29th, Film Forum presents Eric Rohmer’s The Four Adventures of Reinette and Mirabelle, from 1987; it and Rohmer’s previous film, 1986’s Summer, were both revived at BAM earlier this year.
Regular actress collaborator Marie Rivière said Eric Rohmer had been prompted to make Summer after noting women alone on holiday looking for men in newspaper ads and “wanted to explore this loneliness of young women who are not ugly, who have nothing wrong with them, but who are still alone.” While he was waiting for appropriately overwhelming sunset shots, Rohmer dashed off Four Adventures of Reinette and Mirabelle, a sketch starring two young women he’d never worked with before and never would again (Rivière cameos).
Like Summer, Reinette is shot in comfortably scruffy 16mm, but has often been dismissed as a sort of fun but inessential novelty B-side. Its deceptive modesty of purpose sneaks up: it looks like nothing momentous is going on in its four episodes, but the cumulative effect’s euphoric. Reinette (Joëlle Miquel) helps Mirabelle (Jessica Forde) mend a punctured tire on a country ride and invites her to stay the night to experience “the blue hour”: the moment just before sunrise when the countryside’s completely silent. Mirabelle agrees, only to be alarmed at how much Reinette tweaks out when, at the magic moment, a truck drives by and shatters the once-a-day total silence. She agrees to stay another night to experience the moment, and a friendship begins in which Reinette repeatedly freaks out and has to be calmed down by Mirabelle.
Reinette and Mirabelle is a non-abrasive movie about a friendship’s most abrasive moments presented in four episodes. Boyfriends are literally out of the picture (Mirabelle apparently has one but refuses to discuss him); instead, there’s arguments about situational ethics and disputes with waiters. Despite their numerous disputes, there’s never any hint that ending the friendship is on the table; Reinette and Mirabelle can have vigorous disagreements without dramatic tantrums. Maybe that’s what makes the film so uplifting: on either side of it in the Rohmerian canon are films that answer the old Smiths question “Is it wrong to want to live on your own?” with a resounding “NO,” but here’s a film about a functioning, non-romantic relationship about two people who can be friends and roommates without falling out that actually seems realistic. What could be more uplifting than that?