The inspired idea of asking 16 thesps who've worked with elusive French helmer Eric Rohmer to reflect on the man and his oeuvre is only half-realized in "Les contes secrets ou les Rohmeriens." For more than two-thirds of this frustrating docu, most of the thesps dish up more plot synopses than trade secrets.

The inspired idea of asking 16 thesps who’ve worked with elusive French helmer Eric Rohmer to reflect on the man and his oeuvre is only half-realized in “Les contes secrets ou les Rohmeriens.” For more than two-thirds of this frustrating docu, most of the thesps dish up more plot synopses than trade secrets. Nevertheless, pic by long-time Rohmer assistant Marie Binet, a decade in the making per helmer, will thrill boffins and neophytes alike at fests and on the tube, with specialized homevid assured.

The famously camera-shy filmmaker, present only in voice-over until the very end, asserts early on that he’s always cultivated a secretive approach to filmmaking and character motivation. As if echoing his sentiment, most of the talent on display speak more about what their characters do than why.

Thus, those intimately familiar with canon will find tough sledding for 70 minutes or so — though it’s always a kick to see how time has treated such iconic French talent as Jean-Louis Trintignant, Marie-Christine Barrault and a very theatrical Andre Dussolier; virtually all have aged spectacularly well, though Beatrice Romand appears, for some reason, with her face electronically fuzzed out.

It’s not until well into the final third of docu that auds learn of Dussolier acquiring the helmer’s unique syntax, Trintignant’s revelation that he was required to deliver dialogue precisely as written, and Jean-Claude Brialy’s anecdote about Rohmer’s cautioning thesp: “I warn you, I only use one take: no dubbing, no music.”

Four minutes before fade, Rohmer himself is seen on the set of the 1978 release “Perceval,” footage undoubtedly seen already by most hard-core fans.

Tech credits are capably unobtrusive. Interviews are punctuated by interstitial Rohmer quotes, alas not translated into English on tape caught. Approximate translation of title is “The Tales and Secrets of the Rohmerians.”

Les Contes Secrets Ou Les Rohmeriens

France

Production

A Productions de la Luna Montante production. Produced by Hans Bronsgeest, Marie Binet. Directed, written by Marie Binet.

Crew

Camera (color, Digital Betacam), Nicolas Brunet, Stefan Zapasnik, Michel Bercq; editor, Jean-Luc Thomas. Reviewed at New Montreal Film Festival (Special Programs), Sept. 20, 2005. Running time: 90 MIN.

With

Feodor Atkine, Marie-Christine Barrault, Jean-Claude Brialy, Florence Darel, Arielle Dombasle, Andre Dussolier, Francoise Fabian, Pascal Greggory, Amanda Langlet, Melvil Poupuad, Serge Renko, Marie Riviere, Rosette, Beatrice Romand, Jean-Louise Trintignant, Zouzou.
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