The late French New Wave pioneer Eric Rohmer shot ‘The Green Ray’ over the summer of 1985, and this deceptively light but enormously inquiring film is now seen as one of his masterpieces, along with 1969’s ‘My Night with Maud’ and 1983’s ‘Pauline at the Beach’. Rohmer, then 65, took his 28-year-old star and co-writer Marie Rivière – playing young secretary Delphine – across France with a small crew.
They encountered a variety of characters (some of them Rivière’s own family) in Delphine’s search for love, happiness, friendship and answers to life’s big questions. The title comes from a Jules Verne novel named after a meaningful flash of green said to appear sometimes on the horizon as the sun disappears; and here it inspires a poignant final scene. Even for Rohmer, well known for his unadorned, talky contemporary dramas, this is a freewheeling film.
The director allowed his actors to improvise, rarely shot more than one take, and often filmed people and places exactly as he found them. What might easily feel loose and inconsequential ends up feeling like sly magic.