A Summer’s Tale (1996) Conte d’été
Cast includes: Melvil Poupaud (The Lover, Broken English), Amanda Langlet (Triple Agent), Gwenaëlla Simon (Not on the Lips), Aurelia Nolin (One Dollar Curry)
Writer/Director: Eric Rohmer (My Night with Maud, Claire’s Knee, A Tale of Winter)
Genre: Comedy | Light Drama | Romance (113 minutes) French with subtitles
Gaspard’s summer begins when he gets off the ferry at St. Malo and starts walking up the hill. With a backpack and a guitar, it’s quite a hike up the ancient steps to the house with the room his friend said he could use. Up more steps… and he’s finally there. After admiring the view, he’s off to soak in the summertime ambience of this beautiful Brittany seaside resort town… lunching at Le Pink, walking on the boardwalk and admiring the beach. So far summer is like a blank sheet of paper… full of possibilities but it’s hard to know where to begin. The Moonlight Creperie is as good a place as any for dinner.
“Hello,” she says. “Do we know each other?” he responds. The next day on the beach Margot looks very different with wet hair. She’s the waitress from Moonlight Creperie. “Are you here alone?” she asks. “For now,” he responds, trying to keep his distance. But Margot is determined to engage him in chitchat. So they do the basics first. He just graduated college… math and engineering. Margo’s working on her PhD. “Oh, you thought I was just a kitchen lackey?” He talks about his love of music… American blues and rock n roll. Would Gaspard like to come with her tomorrow to interview an old Newfoundlander sailor? Actually, he wouldn’t… but he goes anyway. And since Gaspard has an interest in music, the Newfoundlander sings one of his old sea shanties. Over the next few days, Gaspard is inspired to write a sea shanty of his own about a girl… wonder if Margot is the inspiration? Anyway, the girl Gaspard is here to meet just never seems to shows up. “She doesn’t take me seriously,” he confesses to Margot on one of their walks. “If she changes her mind, think of me,” she says… just friends, though. Margot has an attachment, too.
As Gaspard’s summer shapes up, so do his potential romantic entanglements. But this is a film that was made in the 1990s as part of French writer/ director Gwenaëlla Simon’s “Tales of the Four Seasons.” It wasn’t released in the US until now. And in some ways, it might be more interesting today than in the 90s. In addition to the quaint details like no cell phones, cassette tapes and the clothing styles… the approach to navigating potential romantic entanglements feels like it’s from another era. Was it only 20 years ago? Solene, who wasn’t Gaspard’s type at first, turns out to be… kind of, sort of… Gaspard’s type, after all. But sleeping together right now is out of the question. Before long there are three women in Gaspard’s life… the phantom Léna, Margot and Solene. It’s hard to believe Gaspard previously told Margot that he was jealous of those guys who “don’t even have to make any effort at all with women.” Gaspard is certainly no hunk. In fact, women in general have never taken him seriously. It’s no wonder that Léna doesn’t. But Léna was number one in Gaspard’s playbook, and he’s convinced that hierarchy matters. On the other hand, there’s sexy Solene plus “just friends” Margot. “You’re the only one who can bear me,” he tells Margot. Truly, he is just about unbearable… except it’s so easy to relate to these young adults and their tortured notions about love and life.
3 popped kernels
Socially awkward college grad goes to a French resort town to meet his “girlfriend” and ends up sidetracked by other girls
Gender Style: Neutral
Distribution: Art house
Tempo: In no hurry
Visual Style: Nicely varnished Realism
Nutshell: Challenges of trying to find true love
Language: True to life
Social Significance: Thought provoking