Rendezvous in Paris (Eric Rohmer)

Rating: ***1/2 (out of ****)

When it comes to making movies about the travails of young people in love, or hoping to be in love, there is nobody on the planet who can touch Eric Rohmer, even as he approaches octogenarian status. Rendezvous in Paris, which consists of three short tales of romantic futility, related only by theme and (mostly) by setting, is limited somewhat by its format -- each of the stories feels slightly unresolved, as if it were the first half-hour of a movie Rohmer never got around to finishing -- but is a delight nevertheless. If you decide to see the film on the strength of my recommendation (hey, I can dream, can't I?), and you've never seen a Rohmer film before, here's what you should expect: 1) characters who speak and behave like real human beings (though the women do tend to be preternaturally beautiful); 2) a lot of dialogue; 3) uncanny insight into the complexities and contradictions of the human heart; 4) quite a bit more dialogue; 5) gorgeous French locations (shot here with a minimum of fuss on what looks like a very low budget); 6) more dialogue still; 7) even more dialogue than that; and 8) people talking and talking and talking and talking until the average American would give his/her left wrist to see Arnold Schwarzenegger or Jackie Chan lumber/leap onscreen and kick the almighty shit out of 'em. I urge those of you who think you might fit that profile to keep away; for those who don't get fidgety when presented with intelligent conversation, however, there's an embarrassment of riches in store, especially in comparision with superficially similar American gabfests like Miami Rhapsody and Walking and Talking, which all too frequently sacrifice emotional consistency and plausibility for the easy laugh. (Richard Linklater's excellent and touching Before Sunrise is the nearest American equivalent to Rohmer.) Rohmer, bless him, isn't content to pepper his scripts with sitcom-style one-liners; the humor in his films (most of which can loosely be categorized as comedies...this one included, I think, despite the vaguely downbeat resolution of every tale) is grounded in their situations, and in recognizable human foibles. He understands people, especially young people, and that understanding is more valuable to me than any number of expensive special-effects shots. Sometimes, a word is worth a thousand pictures.