THE ROMANCE OF ASTREA AND CELADON—-IN PRAISE OF OLDER FRENCHMEN!

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THE ROMANCE OF ASTREA AND CELADON:     (2007)      109 MINUTES   D:  ERIC  ROHMER    PLAYS:    FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 7TH TO THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 13TH  AT:     7  AND  9PM  (THOUGH NO 7PM ON THURSDAY)  AND SATURDAY AND SUNDAY AT:    3  AND 5PM

Shamefully, I think this is my first Rohmer film.  I knew it was important to see his work, but you know how it is, so many films, so little time!  I will now reorder my Netflix queue.  The screening for this film was held right before Halloween and Election Day, both events conjuring up bad spirits in the form of ghoulish fun and mud-slinging depravity.  So the counter-programming  of this absolutely gorgeous film, with it’s themes of Freedom, Truth, Beauty and, primarily LOVE, was refreshing.   I find my mind keeps going back to contemplate it, weeks later.  First, it is a absolutely stunning LOOKING film, with pristine pastoral settings, and a breathtakingly beautiful young cast.  You absolutely can believe that they exist in a higher plane than the one we do, where their days are consumed with discussing the lofty ideals, philosophies, and mysteries of the universe, in between their picturesque ceremonies, picnics, and love-making. (No iPods in sight!)  The film tells the story of 2 lovers who part due to a misunderstanding.  Astrea erroneously thinks her lover Celadon has betrayed her with another woman, and impulsively bids him out of her sight.  Where he is to stay until she decides to allow him back into her presence.  Celadon is so overcome by this he hurls himself into the river.  Fortunately for him, he is rescued by a triumvirate of nymphs (OK, at this point I can’t help myself, “Zoot, naughty, naughty Zoot!–has she been turning on the Grail light again?!!!”).  (Sorry!)  The rest of the film shows us the arduous paths the lovers have to travel to reunite, with pauses for spiritual and philosophical discussions.

What I loved about this films is it’s ideas, and ideals.  It was so lovely to watch a film that represented LOVE as being a living, breathing organism that exists in the Universe, one that is enriched or diminished by how we respect it and treat each other. It spoke to me about boundaries. It is an issue I am keenly interested in. (Mainly ’cause I suck at it!)  So the idea that in Celadon’s view that not only would his love for Astrea be damaged if he did not obey her rash wish (even though it causes him much grief and a great deal of actual physical discomfort), he would be damaging LOVE itself.  And dishonoring himself in the process.  In other words (if I have this right), he is willing to sacrifice whatever it takes to show her that her wishes, needs and desires are of vital importance to him.  And it’s important for the world he does so.  It’s the ultimate act of truly listening to and respecting another human being.  Yeah, I know.  WOW.  If all of us could think THAT way……..

My favorite book when I was young was Tolstoy’s Resurrection, the last book he wrote before he died.  In it is decades of his wisdom, his summation of his life experience.  At 87, this will most likely be Director Eric Rohmer’s last film, his cinematic equivalent of his life experience.  DO NOT deprive yourself of it!

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