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MOVIE/ A Restless Vacation

January Wed 16, 2013

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Vacation should be a welcome diversion. We save our money and make plans and envision a time with friends or family somewhere pleasant, at the beach or the mountains or a new city. A vacation even seems to promise something more: adventure, romance, novelty. And often, entering a new venue with plenty of time to participate and observe, we indeed discover surprises and insights. It is the standard first essay of the school year, because everyone wants to know: what happened on your summer vacation? Instead, in French filmmaker's Eric Rohmer's 1986 film Le rayon vert (The Green Ray), for Delphine, a young Parisian secretary, the anticipation of summer vacation is fraught with anxiety, and she's unwilling to leave anything to chance.

After being ditched by her friend, who is going to Greece instead with a new boyfriend, Delphine is now trying to salvage her holidays. Nobody wants to stay in Paris in July and nobody wants to go on vacation with their relatives. Two years after a breakup, Delphine is still looking for something new. However, It is difficult for everyone else to take Delphine's problem seriously, with her pouting and weeping jags, and her friends, more or less patiently, try to help her get over it.

Avoiding a trip with her own family to Ireland, Delphine tags along with a friend to Cherbourg, only to feel left out of the group of couples right away. Her vegetarianism and solitary walks irritate the others, who just want her to loosen up and have a good time. One vacationer tells her she's a "plant." Delphine impulsively flees the place early and next travels to the Alps where her ex is working. Bored before she has a chance to turn around, she returns home the same day. Running into a friend at a cafe in stifling Paris, Delphine is given a key to a vacant flat in Biarritz where she will try vacationing on her own. At the beach, she wades intently through the ocean surf, alone amidst clusters of people. There she meets her opposite, a carefree Swedish girl, unabashedly topless, who is out for fun and looks no further than the next two guys they run into. After a brief conversation, Delphine literally runs away from the foursome, darting down the jagged sandy path, having earlier declared herself a "romantic". Her view of the problem is clear in her retort: “I’m not stubborn. Life is stubborn toward me."

The fifth of Rohmer's six-film series Comédies et Proverbes, Le rayon vert is an example of the realistic New Wave film movement, with scenes shot mostly "en plein air" and with characters interrupting each other and kids wailing over the adults' conversations. Like his character, Rohmer, a Catholic and environmentalist, was elusive in his private life. He started his career in journalism after studying history and literature, but instead chose filmmaking which he found to be "closer to the novel--to a certain classical style of novel which the cinema is now taking over."



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