[Film Review] The Green Ray (1986)

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English Title: The Green Ray
Original Title: Le rayon vert
Year: 1986
Country: France
Language: French
Genre: Drama, Romance
Director: Éric Rohmer
Writers: Éric Rohmer, Marie Rivière
Music: Jean-Louis Valéro
Cinematography: Sophie Maintigneux
Editor: María Luisa García
Marie Rivière
Vincent Gauthier
Béatrice Romand
María Luisa García
Eric Hamm
Joël Comarlot
Rating: 8.3/10

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Watched the fifth entry of Rohmer’s COMEDIES AND PROVERBS series on the silver screen in Shanghai, THE GREEN RAY, offhand released in North American as SUMMER, is Rohmer’s Golden Lion recipient, pans out as a catenation of chronological diary entries spanning over the period of a summer vacation, recording the snippets of a Parisian secretary Delphine (Rivière), an eligible and recently single woman who is left without a plan when her pending Greece holiday falls through in the last minute, which precipitates a lacuna in her sensitive status quo of companion-less among her friends and families when she lackadaisically moseys from one place to another, Delphine’s self-regard is being increasingly tested by her various encounters across the country and encroached by the insured loneliness through, until a visual testimony of the titular green ray from Jules Verne’s eponymous novel, gives her a shot in her arm, yet, by then, Rohmer emphatically brings down the curtain, showing up his perspicacity of rounding off a narrative built around tepid-water temperature with a patiently incubated, exhilarating high note.

Naturalistically adorned with chiefly improvised dialogue, THE GREEN RAY maintains a distinctively lifelike verisimilitude into anatomizing Delphine’s quagmire, the ingrown prejudice against a woman’s solitariness and her wounded defiance against the normalized carpe-diem flirtation, the whole Delphine-against-the-whole-world scenario seems to be a losing battle, but when all is said and done, the film compassionately and quietly celebrates a woman’s personhood through her uniqueness – her putting-on-a-strong-face dichotomy of bravery and vulnerability, her fish-out-of-water awkwardness – and her quirks – her vegan philosophy, her belief of serendipity prophesied by random cards. Many a time she turns on waterworks, it galvanizes a bitter-comical reaction that is priceless and sincere, that transcends any presumption of self-conscious dramaturgy.

Rivière, not only braving herself in the center role, also contributing her own lines for the script as well, makes a felicitous splash with her commitment of fleshing out Delphine’s congenital contradiction, she seems determined, defensive and lucid-minded, but at the same time oscillating, responsive and trepidatious, a symptom can be well induced to neurosis, but she is not there yet, when she finally emboldens herself to respond to Jacques (Gauthier), it is a heartening break audience bargains for, to wish something good finally happens to her, which Rohmer grants us with a majestic magic touch.

Sparse music notes, eye-soothing compositions accentuated against real locations, unfeigned performances capturing a realistic vibe, Rohmer’s THE GREEN RAY is among one of his best, witty, funny, honest, but also painfully sincere and touching, a riveting combo that demonstrates his worldly sophistication and deep-seated humanism.

referential entries: Rohmer’s CLAIRE’S KNEE (1970, 8.5/10); MY NIGHT AT MAUD’S (1969, 8.1/10); THE AVIATOR’S WIFE (1981, 7.6/10); PAULINE AT THE BEACH (1983, 8.3/10).

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