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France, 1998 (MIFF 1999, International Panorama)

Director: Eric Rohmer

Eric Rohmer once commented that his films deal less with what people do than what is going on in their minds while they're doing it—a cinema of thought rather than aclions. Winner of Best Screenplay at the Venice Film Festival in 1998, Autumn Tale continues in this vein. Rohmer's elegant moral explorations pay meticulous attention to surface detail, with the changing backgrounds often expressing subtle alterations in his protagonists' interior drama.

The culminating episode in Rohmer's latest cycle of films, named for the seasons, is another insightful masterpiece by an extraordinarily literate director. Autumn Tale flirts with various semi-devious approach­es to matchmaking among the over-40 set. It is a deftly layered meditation on men, women, friendship and the prospect of romance in the Rhone Valley—quirky plea­sures that build to a satisfying denouement.

Best friends Magali and Isabelle (Beatrice Romand and Marie Riviere whose work with Rohmer stretches back 28 years) have reached middle age. Magali is a widower who everyone is trying to fix up with a new fella. Isabelle places a 'Lonely Hearts' ad and begins screening prospective beaus. New friend Rosine tries to pair Magali up with her former boyfriend. Both chains of events have chronically embarrassing and infuriating results.

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