An Autumn Tale


Magali and Isabelle stroll through Magali’s vineyard talking like the old friends they are, discussing, among other things, the ageing of wine – and of women. Magali is a widow and in everyone’s opinion, including, sometimes, her own, she could do with a man. But the path to meeting one, let alone to true love, never did run smooth, even with a little help from her friends. A gentle, witty film about love, loneliness, and friendship, beautiful to look at and carefully crafted, with the possibility of a happy ending.
France 1998, 111 minutes

Programme Notes

Magali’s a widow in her forties with unruly hair, a face innocent of make-up, two children, grown and off her hands, and her own vineyard in the beautiful Rhone valley. She’s passionate about her wine, loves her children and her friends, and enjoys life. A partner might be nice, though. That shouldn’t be too difficult, surely – she’d be very easy to love. But how will he find her? Her friend Isabelle suggests a personal ad, but Magali won’t hear of it. So Isabelle puts the ad in herself; she can meet the respondents and pass on anyone suitable. But there’s enough scope for misunderstandings in any couple’s relationship, let alone when there’s a third person involved. Not only that, but someone else also thinks she knows Mr Right.

Eric Rohmer’s films are famous for being carefully plotted, painstakingly crafted, and somewhat cerebral. His work also has a semi-documentary quality; he works on location, and the shots of the Rhone countryside in the warm autumnal light are idyllic. What saves his films from being ‘merely’ clever or beautiful is his wit and warmth. He tells stories about real people, firmly rooted in their surroundings. We almost feel that they have a life outside the film that goes on whether we’re watching or not, and the plots, with their misapprehensions, uncertainties and surprises, have the flavour of real life. And, mostly, we like Rohmer’s people: Magali’s happy-ever-after is far from certain and we want it almost as much as her friends do.

Rohmer tends to work with the same actors and technicians (Marie Rivière has worked with him for twenty years, Béatrice Romand for more than thirty), leading to confidence in the ensemble playing and a mature perspective. As the title suggests, the film’s heroines are approaching the autumn of their lives. They’re women, not girls; still attractive though no longer pretty, still sexual beings, with the bonus of maturity and experience. Mercifully they’re not young at heart: they’re old enough to know that friendship is as precious as love, and that, while your friends don’t always do what you want, you may find they do what you need.

Magali: Béatrice Romand
Isabelle: Marie Rivière
Gerald: Alain Libolt
Etienne: Didier Sandre
Rosine: Alexia Portal
Director, Screenplay: Eric Rohmer
Producer: François Etchegaray
Photography: Diane Baratier