The late French director Eric Rohmer’s 1996 film "A Summer’s Tale," never released in U.S. theaters before now, is a sunny vacation to two destinations: the gorgeous beaches of Brittany and the magical time in young adulthood when all things — particularly in love — seem possible.
Gaspard (Melvil Poupaud) is 23, just graduated from college with a math degree, interested in writing music and about to take his first job with an engineering firm in Nantes. He also has a sort-of girlfriend, Lena (Aurelia Nolin), who has promised to meet him in Dinard, a town on the Brittany coast in northwest France.
‘A Summer’s Tale’
Eric Rohmer’s 1996 drama of a college grad’s search for beach romance, opening in America for the first time, is a sunny delight.
Where » Broadway Centre Cinemas.
When » Opens Friday, Aug. 8.
Rating » Not rated, but probably PG for mild kissing.
Running time » 114 minutes; in French with subtitles.
While Gaspard waits for Lena to arrive, he strikes up a friendship with Margot (Amanda Langlet), an ethnology student working as a waitress. Margot has an archaeologist boyfriend who’s abroad, so she cautiously puts Gaspard in the "friend zone," though they’re more attracted to each other than either will admit.
But when Margot introduces the socially awkward Gaspard to Solene (Gwenaëlle Simon), another young vacationer who takes a shine to him, the lad is in a dilemma. He says he wants to wait for Lena, but she’s days late for their scheduled rendezvous, so he considers a summer fling with Solene. Just as he does, Lena finally appears.
For all of Gaspard’s dithering about Lena or Solene, it’s Margot with whom he has the most rapport. Their regular walks along the beach or exploring the town are filled with engaging conversations — many of them considering the age-old question of whether men and women can ever just be friends.
Poupaud (who starred last year as a burgeoning transsexual in Canadian director Xavier Dolan’s masterful drama "Laurence Anyways") is compelling as Gaspard, who navigates from brooding musician to gawky chick magnet to sensitive guy with subtle charm. Standing out among the women is Langlet, whose unassuming beauty quietly shines through. (Langlet filmed "A Summer’s Tale" 13 years after playing the teen lead in Rohmer’s 1983 drama "Pauline at the Beach.")
Rohmer, who died in 2010, made "A Summer’s Tale" as part of his "Four Seasons" series in the ’90s. This one perfectly captures the promise of summer love, of flings that may not lead anywhere and probably weren’t supposed to, practiced by young people who believe everything good lies ahead of them. Seeing "A Summer’s Tale" now is like joining them on this vacation, taking in the warmth of the sun and the glow of young romance.
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