The final entrée in Eric Rohmer’s Tales Of The Four Seasons series, Autumn Tale has no car chases or explosions or even loud arguments. It’s a movie that isn’t afraid to take its own damn time, layering slice-of-life episodes on top of one another in a subtle, quiet and light romantic comedy.
Winemaker Magali (Beatrice Romand) lives by herself in the French countryside on her vineyard. Widowed and with the kids away at school, Magali is desperately lonely, but refuses to admit it. Her son’s girlfriend Rosine (Alexia Portal) is infatuated with Magali and decides to set her up with Etienne (Didier Sandre), Rosine’s former college professor and lover. In the meantime, Magali’s best friend Isabelle (Marie Riviere) does a little matchmaking herself placing a personals ad in a local paper on Magali’s behalf, although completely unbeknownst to her. Isabelle even masquerades as Magali to hook Gerald (Alain Libolt), a salesman.
The farcical circumstances are set up with precision, but Rohmer refuses to let them play out in way we’ve come to expect. As far from sitcom, laughter-turns-to-mayhem as you can get, Autumn Tale is a personal and intimate story. The laughs -- and there are many -- grow out of the characters, played with such subtlety and grace, it seems at times that they were real people, not actors.
Rohmer was always the least in-your-face of the French New Wave and his films reflect a comfortable maturity and incredible subtlety. Autumn Tale is quintessential Rohmer and closes out the Four Seasons quartet perfectly.