The Romance of Astrea and Celadon

Film
Recommended
5 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

5 out of 5 stars
The freshest and loveliest film this week is this bucolic romance from the 88-year-old French director Eric Rohmer. His latest film – and possible last of a series of 25 features stretching back to 1959’s ‘Le Signe du Lion’ – is an adaptation of a very early novel (written in 1610 by Honoré d’Urfé), a fabulous tale of love, heartbreak and cross-dressing among young shepherds and nymphs in fifth-century Gaul.

The story is simple and engaging: dark, dusky-eyed Celadon (Andy Gillet) throws himself in the river when blond-tressed lover Astrea (Stéphanie Crayencour) rejects his protestations of innocence of infidelity, but survives to receive a fundamental sentimental education, not least at the sensuous hands of a party of diaphanous nymphs. But, as ever with Rohmer,
its tale of innocence and experience, fidelity, self-delusion and social constraint is deepened by a script of the subtlest construction, and performances of straightforward emotional truth.
That is not to say that Rohmer has abandoned his perennial concerns – notably to fashion a cinematic arena where the paradoxes of life – those between the heart and head, the body and the soul, sex and love – can be played out.

Careful to preface his portrait of pagan/romanised peoples as ‘seventeenth-century readers imagined them’, he allows himself to indulge in playful (almost Brechtian) anachronisms which enable us to  examine our present anxieties, artistic conventions and philosophical conundrums in the context of our shared past and our future. It’s marvellous how his film’s exemplary, pared-down pictorial mise-en-scène (cloisters for the druids, sylvan glades for the lovers) so undemonstratively bypasses the confused clutter of much of modern film, but it is the wisdom, passion, joy and hope with which he invests the film that makes it so terribly moving.

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