Friendship, like wine, improves with age

August 06, 1999|By Ann Hornaday | Ann Hornaday,SUN FILM CRITIC

As rich and ripe as its Cote du Rhone setting, "Autumn Tale" is an ode to age, a celebration of wisdom and friendship that grow and deepen over the years. Written and directed by Eric Rohmer, the French filmmaker who has made a life specialty of observing friendships, romances and heartbreaks from a discreet distance, "Autumn Tale" soars with hope for finding love late in life, even as it admits that such hope is also an impossibly fragile thing.

Rohmer centers his story around Magali (Beatrice Romand), a 45-year-old vineyard owner whose children have moved away and who now faces the future alone.

Two friends of Magali's -- her best friend, Isabelle (Marie Riviere), and her son's girlfriend, Rosine (Alexia Portal) -- decide to take matters into their own hands.

Rosine tries to fix Magali up with her own ex-lover, a libidinous philosophy professor, and Isabelle takes out a personal ad.

When both women discover they have unresolved feelings for the men they have chosen for Magali, things become more complicated, eventually coming to a head at Isabelle's daughter's wedding.

Not a lot happens in "Autumn Tale," if your idea of action is constant motion and histrionics.

Instead, Rohmer concentrates on the kind of emotional fireworks that transpire over a glass of wine or on a walk through the French countryside.

It's the talk in "Autumn Tale," and the extraordinarily expressive faces of those who do the talking, that accounts for its engrossing, enchanting powers.

The pleasures of this movie are myriad: its roughly beautiful setting, the characters' brief but meaningful conversations, its notion of a sensual life after 40 and the sight of two fantastic-looking women of a certain age walking toward that life. Like wine with lunch, it seems to be an idea that only the French are capable of today, and as "Autumn Tale" proves, Americans are the poorer for it.

`Autumn Tale'

Starring Marie Riviere, Beatrice Romand, Alain Libolt, Didier Sandre, Alexia Portal Directed by Eric Rohmer

Released by USA Films

Rated PG (mild thematic elements)

Running time 112 minutes

Sun score ***

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.