This 1987 Éric Rohmer picture is slightly different than most of his others though it does, of course, focus on two young women and their adventures. The difference is that there is not immediately a set of romantic relationships to be considered and accepted or rejected. Instead, the narrative is divided into separate short narratives developed within the relationship between the two young women. It appears to have some connection to The Green Ray (Le rayon vert, 1986) in that both films involve some improvisation by the central characters and feature an attempt to use a natural phenomenon which the characters seek to experience. Marie Rivière, one of Rohmer’s more frequent collaborators, is in both films.
Mirabelle (Jessica Forde) is a Parisian student visiting her parents in their cottage in rural France when her bicycle suffers a puncture. As a Parisienne with limited practical skills she is helpless before the arrival of Reinette (Joëlle Miquel), a teenage girl seemingly living alone in her grandmother’s converted barn. Miquel, barely 15 when she made the film, is also credited with ideas for the script. Reinette persuades Mirabelle to stay overnight and experience ‘The Blue Hour’. This sequence then forms the basis of the first ‘adventure’ promised by the film’s title. Each of the four adventures is given its own intertitle. The Blue Hour is more like the ‘Blue Moment’, the short time just around daybreak when there is silence between the sounds of the night and the new day.
Reinette and Mirabelle get on well and when she learns that Reinette is planning to enrol in an art school in Paris, Mirabelle offers her the chance to become her flatmate. It looks like a typical town mouse-country mouse tale is developing. The next three adventures do indeed utilise the difference in experience of the two young women, but not perhaps in ways that we might expect. Reinette proves to have a strong moral sense, but also an inflexibility compared to Mirabelle’s more open approach to life that is also sometimes more playful. The second adventure is, as one commentator suggests, almost like a Chaplinesque short in which the women arrange to meet at a café where Reinette encounters a stereotypical Parisian waiter. The third adventure features encounters with a shoplifter, a beggar and a con artist which provides the basis for a moral and philosophical debate. Finally, short of money, Reinette needs to sell one of her paintings to a gallery. This evolves into another riff on ‘silent’ comedy as the loquacious Reinette attempts to sell to a gallery owner without saying a word. This sequence features Fabrice Luchini who appears in several Rohmer films and here adds a different kind of comic performance to play against the two young women.
Although I’ve seen quite a few films by Rohmer (several are covered on this blog), he did make a lot of films – over 50 if all his TV films and short films are included – I’m still enjoying new aspects of his films. This film, as Nick Lacey also notes in his blog post on Le rayon vert, offers us a film by a man that easily passes the Bechdel test. Two women spend their whole time together talking about their experiences and their positions on various topics without spending any time wondering about men with whom they might become romantically involved. Mirabelle says she has a boyfriend but he never appears. However, Rohmer does offer us Reinette’s paintings, most of which feature the nude or near nude female form. The paintings are by Joëlle Miquel herself, I think.
It’s interesting to think about Rohmer’s film in the current climate and the promotion of films made by women. This film was photographed by Sophie Maintigneux (using 16mm, which explains the grain of the stills?). She also shot Le rayon vert and these two films for Rohmer were her first credits. The same was true for the editor María Luisa García, although she did have one earlier credit. Rohmer was doing his bit to modify his ‘male gaze’. The last adventure about selling the painting also made me think about Claudia Weill’s Girlfriends (US 1978) which would make an interesting pairing with Rohmer’s film for a double bill.
I enjoyed 4 Aventures de Reinette et Mirabelle very much and it is currently streaming on MUBI in the UK. It is also available on Amazon, Apple and for subscribers on BFI Player and Arrow.