April 26, 2001
Vol. 20 No. 15

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    ‘From the Script to the Screen’ Conference focuses on Rohmer

    By Arthur Fournier
    News Office

    A scene from L’Amour l’après-midi

    A director who combines classic literary themes with modern cinematic techniques to emotionally powerful effect, Eric Rohmer is widely regarded as one of the most influential filmmakers of postwar French cinema. In cooperation with the School of the Art Institute and Alliance française de Chicago, the University will present “Eric Rohmer: From the Script to the Screen,” a three-day, bilingual conference, which will take place from Thursday, April 26, to Saturday, April 28.

    The conference will provide a forum for American and French film scholars to discuss this new wave film director’s diverse body of work. Both profoundly personal in their impact and universally human in their scope, Rohmer’s films have resonated with audiences in Europe and in the United States for more than four decades.

    More than simply reaffirming his importance as a filmmaker, events associated with the conference, which will include panel presentations, discussions and film screenings, will present a wide-ranging look at Rohmer’s art, thought and life.

    According to Noël Herpe, organizer of the conference and Assistant Professor in Romance Languages & Literatures, Rohmer’s films have given new life to a great tradition of French letters–that of Corneille, Marivaux or Musset. “In France he is known to be the most literary filmmaker because his characters talk about their feelings in complex ways,” he explained. “In Rohmer’s films, people explain themselves and strive to make their sentiments clear. But the language they use is often ambivalent, and words sometimes become a way for them to disguise their deeper feelings.”

    Herpe said that among the strongest of Rohmer’s recurring motifs is the fortuitous interplay between volition, social convention and fate. In the 1960’s, Rohmer achieved his first American success with My Night at Maud’s, part of his Moral Tales–a film-cycle primarily concerned with the conflicts of men whose sexual desires place them at odds with the norms of middle-class society.

    Moving on from the masculine perspective, Rohmer began to experiment with other points of view in the 1980’s. “He took up story lines about young women and dreamers, often presenting characters who seem a bit out of touch with the world around them at the moments in their lives when they are forced to reconcile with reality,” Herpe explained. “In some of his films, the confrontation is shown to result in failure, in others, the characters come to terms with their situations.”

    The conference will begin at 7:45 p.m. on Thursday, April 26, with a screening of L’Amour l’après-midi at the Gene Siskel Film Center at the School of the Art Institute, located at Columbus Drive and Jackson Boulevard. The screening will be followed by a discussion with French actress Zouzou, whose role in the film as Chloe brought her wide acclaim, and American critic Dudley Andrew, professor at Yale University. Admission to the screening and discussion will be $7.

    On Friday, April 27, the conference will continue at the University with panel discussions on various aspects of Rohmer’s critical writing and his works for film, television and stage. The first panel will begin at 10 a.m. in the Film Studies Center, third floor, Cobb Hall, 5811 S. Ellis Ave. Among the participants will be world-renowned film scholars Thomas Gunning, Professor in Art History and the Committee on Cinema & Media Studies, and Janet Bergstrom, associate professor in film studies at the University of California-Los Angeles.

    On Saturday, April 28, the conference will begin at 10 a.m. with a series of French-language presentations on Rohmer at Alliance française de Chicago, 54 W. Chicago Ave. The remainder of the conference events will include a lunch buffet at 1 p.m., a roundtable discussion featuring Zouzou and Rohmer’s colleagues Françoise Etchegaray, Frédéric Bonnaud and Laurent Perrin, and a preview of the new Rohmer film, L’Anglaise et le Duc. Admission to the concluding panels and screenings at Alliance française will be $20.

    “Eric Rohmer: From the Script to the Screen” has been made possible through support from the Chicago Group on Modern France; the Committee on Cinema & Media Studies; the Division of the Humanities; the Department of Romance Languages & Literatures; the Center for International Studies’ Norman Wait Harris Memorial Foundation Fund; the Adelyn Russell Bogert Fund of the Franke Institute for the Humanities; and with additional support from the Gene Siskel Film Center, Alliance française de Chicago, the French Cultural Services in Chicago and the University of Notre Dame.

    Friday’s talks at the Film Studies Center will be free and open to the public. At all conference events, translations of presentation abstracts will be available in English and French. For additional information, please call (773) 576-4326 or visit the conference Web site at http://humanities.uchicago.edu/cms/rohmer/.

    Beginning in April and continuing through July, the Gene Siskel Film Center will screen 13 of Rohmer’s films.

    For more information about the series, call (312) 443-3733 or the Film Center hot line at (312) 443-3737. Also visit http://www.siskelfilmcenter.org.