The Bechdel test is mentioned regularly on the feminist sites I look at and The Green Ray, known as Summer in America, certainly passes. It follows Delphine (Marie Rivière) as she decides what to do after a friend dropped out of a holiday at the last minute. Delphine is unhappy and whilst the cause of this is because she’s been dumped by a man the film focuses on her desires rather then men’s. It’s ‘co-scripted’, or rather improvised, by Rivière and director Erich Rohmer and this, with the location shooting, where you can see passers-by looking at the filming with curiosity, gives the film a realist dimension. All the other characters are ‘playing’ themselves including Paulette Christlein, the ‘free spirit’ Delphine meets in Biarritz, who, like the other performers I sampled, never appeared in another film.
The long-takes, and meandering narrative, is similar to the style and form that Richard Linklater used in his Midnight films; the subject matter is similar too. Not a lot happens, or rather, quite a lot happens slowly and I was wondering why I was enjoying the film so much as it seemed to be an example of Rohmer’s whimsy. It helps that Rivière’s is brilliant and the several locations used are beautifully shot. The revelation, toward the end, of what the ‘green ray’ is does give the film a weightier philosophical dimension. I don’t think the title Summer is a good one; presumably distributors were afraid audiences might confuse the film with science fiction.
It has recently been re-released in the UK and it’s well-worth catching this film, particularly if you like Linklater.
Re the Bechdel test – I can see all sorts of problems with this.
One example, Once Upon a Time in Anatolia is deliberately about women’s silence!
As for The Green Ray, it is a fine film, I look forward to seeing it again and some of the other Rohmer’s that will, hopefully, get a distribution.
There’s a certain irony re Bechdel isn’t there, as the film feels it’s made out of her longing and, of course, ends with the romantic moment. Great to think about comparing that to the moment in ‘Before Midnight’ when Jesse and Celine watch the sun disappear (on their marriage?) Quite a conscious reference from Linklater surely. Joanna Hogg cites this film as an influence on her first feature ‘Unrelated’, which is quietly much more brutal since Hogg’s character is older and more fatally out of step with her circumstances.