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Conte d'automne (Autumn Tale)

(1998) *** 1/2 Pg
112 min. October. Director: Eric Rohmer. Cast: Marie Riviere (II), Beatrice Romand, Alain Libolt, Didier Sandre, Alexia Portal.
Autumn Tale, from respected French auteur Eric Rohmer, is the last chapter of Rohmer's thematic Tales of the Four Seasons series, but it requires absolutely no foreknowledge. Rohmer is known for films that gently ramble through a landscape of endearingly self-conscious characters, and Autumn Tale is no exception. Central to this cast of characters is Magali (Beatrice Romand), a lonely winemaker. Rohmer eases us from subtly metaphorical conversations on winemaking to pointed discussions on love, until the farcical shape of the film emerges. Magali's friend Isabelle (Marie Rivire) conspires to set her up, as does the girlfriend of Magali's grown son (Alexia Portal). The complications are rich, but better left unspoken except to say that both potential suitors are romantically misdirected. While one would hardly describe Rohmer as ambitious here (despite the fact that the final scene defiantly refuses to tack on the obligatory Hollywood payoff), the simply effective, endearing storytelling style delivers the sort of unforced film that now appears one of an endangered species.
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