A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
The French New Wave began circa 1958 and influenced in one way or another most of the good movies made ever since. Some of its pioneers (Melville, Truffaut, Malle) are dead, but the others (Godard, Chabrol, Rivette, Resnais, Varda) are still active in their late 70s and up. And Eric Rohmer, at 88, has only just announced that "The Romance of Astrea and Celadon" may be his last film.
It doesn't look like typical Rohmer. He frequently gives us contemporary characters, besotted not so much by love as by talking about it, finding themselves involved in ethical and plot puzzles, at the end of which he likes to quote a proverb or moral. His films are quietly passionate and lightly mannered.
But then, so is "Astrea and Celadon," even if it's set in 5th century Gaul and involves shepherds, shepherdesses, druids and nymphs. The story was told in a novel by Honore d'Urfe, Marquis of Valromey and Count of Chateauneuf, who published it in volumes between 1607 and 1627 -- running, I learn, some 5,000 pages. The film version must therefore be considerably abridged at 109 minutes, although it leaves you wondering if the novel ran on like this forever.
The movie does rather run on, although it is charming and sweet, and is perhaps too languid. It is about two lovers obsessed with love's codes of honor. That is, curiously, the same subject as Rivette's 2007 film, "The Duchess of Langeais," made when he was 84. The characters seem perversely more dedicated to debating the fine points than getting down to it. Rivette has them talking to each other; Rohmer has them fretting while separated.