231. Conte d'hiver/A Winter's Tale (France 1992)

Director: Eric Rohmer

Starring: Charlotte Véry, Frederic van den Driessche, Michael Voletti, Herve Furic, Ava Loraschi

Cinematography: Luc Pages

Music: Sebastien Erms

Script: Eric Rohmer

Fact: The second of Rohmer's 'Four Seasons' quadrilogy....zzzz...

Fact/Lie: One of the many tests of being an intellectual is how you react to the phrase 'Winter's Tale'. If you think of Shakespeares 'The Winter's Tale', you're one of the clever ones; if you think of David Exeter's 'A Winter's Tale', you're more of an egg and chips/On the Buses sort of thicko, and if you think of the film's title in its original French form, you're just a conte..

In one line: Parisian woman waits in hope for the unlikely re-appearance of a former lover.


Felicie (Véry) has a 'whirlwind romance' with Charles (van den Driessche) whilst on holiday in Brittany. She mistakenly gives him the wrong address and they disappear from each other's lives. Five years later Felicie is living with her young daughter (the result of her holiday 'liaison') in her mother's house. She is torn between the bookish Loic (Furic), and her slightly chubby hairdresser boss Maxence (Voletti) who wants to take her to his provincial home town of Nevers*. All the time, she believes that she will find Charles again and she will be re-united with the true love of her life.

*There is no other French town like it. It's known locally as 'Nevers-le-Twain' and is twinned with Windsor.


A fairly standard Rohmer film - the lives and affairs of ordinary people are played out in a low-key fashion without the need for arty camerawork or editing. The film is very dialogue-heavy, particularly when Loic's twatty friends come round and play out the roles of the stereotyped Parisian intellectuals to great effect (ie. the audience wants to vomit at all times). Loic and Felicie's conversations are often no better, and there is a very long scene in which Pascal and Plato are lobbed into the dialogue like Robert Robinson -shaped hand grenades - presumably to impress, we, the paying public.

The nights are colder now.
maybe I should close the door,

Rohmer's films are very much like Woody Allen's films over the past thirty years, only without the laughs. Hang on, they are very much like Woody Allen's films over the past thirty years in so far as there are no laughs whatsoever. At least Rohmer doesn't try to be funny. If you've had the misfortune to sit through Small Time Crooks, Melinda and Melinda (fuckin' ell!), Celebrity, Manhattan Murder Mystery (the list continues forever), you'll know what I mean.

And anyway the snow has
covered all your footsteps

""'ey lad: did you give me one on 'olidee five years ago?"

 (Norman Stanley Fletcher voice) "What - with these feet?"

Felicie wants Charles because he is 'a man's man' (in other words he gave her one on holiday and didn't go on about it) and tries to spurn the intentions of the two suitors who are offering her kindness and security.

And I can follow you no more.
The fire still burns at night,
my memories are warm and clear;

I sat there thinking 'you've got a fucking cheek' because Felicie's ok, but nothing to write home about:

But then again, she's better than him. And I'm getting real life mixed up with the fictional world of film once again.

It's a bit pretentious (there are very tenuous connections with the similarly named Shakespeare play - a pompous version of which is seen in the film when Loic and Felicie enjoy a night at the theatre), but if you like French film (decent, non-genre stuff and not historical cack like The Horseman on the Roof or even worse French farce/comedy like Les Visiteurs), you'll probably like this.

but everybody knows
it's hard to be alone at this time of year

Even better than watching a French film, is watching a French film and using the opportunity  to try out your Eddie Waring impression by reading out the names of the cast list of the film in Eddie's rich but bizarre Yorkshire baritone. I've probably mentioned this before, but you might not have understood what I was getting at. So, if, for example, you start off with a basic 'ULL KING - STON RO-VAZZ', you can progress to 'GE-RAHHDD DE-PAR_DEEYOO' to 'DAN-YELL ORRRRR-TOY' and best of all - 'IS-A-BELL OO-PURR' in a manner of seconds

Felicie bitterly regretted Loic's decision to invite the slimmed down 'Rafa' Benitez  and Marti Caine to their bi-monthly 'Nil Satis' night.

It was only a winter's tale,
Just another winter's tale,

You can try it on this cast if you want. Obviously 'Catherine Véry' is not great, but 'FRI-DE-RICK VAN-DEN DRIE-SSCHE' is outstanding in anyone's book and he's not even remotely French sounding!

And why should the world take notice
of one more love that's failed?

In fact, you could work your way through the Four Seasons quartet using a different rugby league commentator for each film. Now I only know Eddie and the aptly named Ray French from rugby league, so I'd use  Bill McLaren and maybe Bill Beaumont for the spring and summer tales, but you can use any commentator for any of Rohmer's films.

Ron Pickering (for example) is a fantastic choice for The Green Lantern, whereas David Coleman's your man for Le Genou de Claire.

The choice - as always - is up to you, because.....

on a world~wide scale
we're just another winter's tale