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Screening Eric Rohmer At The Walter Reade Theater

The Film Society of Lincoln Center has just completed a comprehensive retrospective devoted to the films of Eric Rohmer at the Walter Reade Theatre where all of the director's narrative features were screened in 35-millimeter prints along with several other titles.

Several years ago, New York's Film Forum hosted a similar retrospective which featured almost all newly-struck prints, many of which had been newly acquired by the now-defunct Winstar (later Wellspring). Regrettably, none of the prints in the Film Society's retrospective were newly struck, and with the notable, recent exception of the Walter Reade's extraordinary retrospective survey of Swedish cinema, the Film Society has typically been bested of late by Film Forum and some other local venues, in finding the best prints. (The recent Clint Eastwood retrospective was a notable disappointment, in this respect.)

The prints of the Six Moral Tales screened here were all from the Winstar collection and, despite some dirt and wear, were mostly excellent. Three of these, however, were compromised. First, the print of La boulangère de Monceau, although photographed in black-and-white, was inexplicably printed on color stock. The print of La carrière de Suzanne was too dark as was that of several reels of Ma nuit chez Maud.

The print of Perceval le Gallois was clear with some wear but very badly faded while the color was well-preserved in Die Marquise von O....

Several prints in the series, Comedies and Proverbs, had outstanding color -- Le beau mariage, Pauline à la plage, and Les nuits de la pleine lune -- while La femme de l'aviateur was presented in a pretty good blowup from the 16-millimeter camera-original. However, Le rayon vert was presented in a poor-quality, grainy blowup. L'ami de mon amie was diminished by what looked to be a (less-than-lustrous) original release print. The prints of the Tales of the Four Seasons were generally, similarly disappointing, with that of Conte d'hiver being outright poor but at least Conte de printemps was an uncut archival print.

One of the highlights of the series was the gorgeous print of Le signe du lion from a British archive. The print of Triple Agent also appeared to be from a British archive and had outstanding color.

Another highlight was an intriguing shorts program where the programmer, Scott Foundas, enterprisingly unearthed a rare, excellent 35-millimeter print of Véronique et son cancre along with the equally rare Présentation ou Charlotte et son steak, also presented in 35-millimeter. After these, it was dismaying to encounter a poor-quality video-transfer of the ultra-rare short, Nadja à Paris, but two other rare shorts, Entretien sur Pascal and Une étudiante d'aujourd'hui were presented in decent video-transfers.

Paris vu par... was screened in an inadequate blowup while the blowup of L'arbre, le maire et la médiathèque was even grainier and scratchier. The blowups of 4 aventures de Reinette et Mirabelle and Les rendez-vous de Paris were also disappointing. L'anglaise et le duc was screened in a good quality video-to-film transfer but this, like Les amours d'Astrée et de Céladon (shown in a less satisfactory transfer and a more worn print), must surely be superior in the original video format.

Two other screenings were welcome discoveries: Rohmer's Kleist adaptation for televison, Catherine de Heilbronn and the interesting documentary from the series, Cinéma, de notre temps: Eric Rohmer - Preuves à l'appui.

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