Back in primary school, we would sometimes watch those quirky, cringe-inducing videos where two people came together to very clearly define how doing this was wrong or that was right. The immediate seconds of Four Adventures of Reinette and Mirabelle reminded me of that, possibly because of the music and dated placards that introduce the film to us, but perhaps also because of the characters. They are there to solve issues, the bonding and beautiful friendship between the two comes later. One wishes to know where the garage is, the other says they can fix their broken tyre. It has all the makings of those valuable life lessons we learned in primary school, or perhaps I am just losing my mind and projecting a desire for simplicity onto the simple, effective storytelling provided by director Éric Rohmer.
The bond Mirabelle (Jessica Forde) and Reinette (Joëlle Miquel) have for one another is happenstance. We are present for the first flickers of friendship and do not really miss many important beats in their relationship together. They talk about paintings and art, beggars and thieves, and eventually succeed in selling their work. These are not the moments of importance, though. Certainly not. Rohmer just uses this as a backdrop to discuss topics near and dear to his heart, or that he finds, at the very least, quite interesting. It looks like a beautiful time to be living. They have whisky and quiche, enjoy food outdoors and chat about general trivialities. Mountains and moving moments that trade experiences through the spoken word. Rohmer seems to be a master of that. The flow of these conversations are natural and directed with a sincere intimacy, but the depth is what I struggle to care for.
They are estranged from the system, living the life of free spirits and artists. What a beautiful dream that must be, and it is something we can always aspire to, but never truly reach. Is there a way to live like Mirabelle and Reinette? Probably not. But we can dream. Rohmer certainly is. He speaks of humility and nature, but while they are written well, there is little room for spontaneous love for these characters, nor is there the need or desire to care for what they say or do. There are vague pangs of conflict within, but it is never quite realised. Shying away from this, Rohmer presents a one-sided view of life as an artist out of touch with the rat race. It is a beautiful way of living, he shows this often, but he removes the pain and agony of actually taking the plunge and surviving long enough to make a living. Reinette thrives in the country, and it is the lack of detail Rohmer has for these characters beyond “they are artists and friends” that really stops his narrative from being anything more than an analysis of themes, rather than that of character.
A shame, too, for Four Adventures of Reinette and Mirabelle does have what it takes to make its titular two memorable. They live alongside one another with a shared camaraderie not seen in the real world. There are no too as forgiving or friendly as Reinette and Mirabelle are with one another, and that is rather comforting to see. Rohmer has crafted a comfortable enough movie, one that is as loose and free in structure as its characters. But that lack of rigid structure leads to Rohmer discussing his thoughts more than anything else, and it is a sad shame to see he doesn’t have much of interest to say.