Combustible Celluloid
Own it:
Get the Poster
Search for streaming:
NetflixHuluGoogle PlayGooglePlayCan I
With: Marie Rivière, María Luisa García, Béatrice Romand, Rosette, Eric Hamm, Carita, Joël Comarlot, Vincent Gauthier
Written by: Eric Rohmer, Marie Rivière
Directed by: Eric Rohmer
MPAA Rating: R
Language: French, with English subtitles
Running Time: 98
Date: 08/29/1986

Le Rayon vert (1986)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Verne's Ray

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The fifth in Eric Rohmer's "Comedies and Proverbs" series, Le Rayon vert follows Delphine (Marie Rivière), an insecure soul whose summer vacation plans are thwarted when her traveling companion suddenly cancels on her. Delphine makes several other attempts, staying with a friend and her family but realizing that she doesn't fit in with their barbecues and boat rides; she's a vegetarian and gets seasick. She also tries to go to the mountains by herself but quits after a day and returns to Paris.

It's a brave move to center the entire film on this character, who cries and complains and sulks a lot. People seem willing to put up with her, but she's right on the verge of alienating everyone. However, Rohmer is at his best dealing intellectually with the emotions of smart French people, and his persistence gets just underneath Delphine's surface, finding her painful, anxious self-doubt; we keep rooting for her to rise above it, rather than succumbing. The film leaves us with a lovely, amazing finale, the one that Delphine -- as well as we -- deserve.

The proverb that Rohmer used as the basis for this was: "Ah, for the days/that set our hearts ablaze." The original title, Le Rayon vert, translates to "The Green Ray" and comes from Jules Verne. It describes a very rarely seen phenomenon: the final beam of light from the setting sun (said to have "magical" powers). American distributors changed the title to Summer, which is nice since the story takes place over summer vacation, but it would eventually confuse viewers when Rohmer later made his "Tales of the Four Seasons" entry A Summer's Tale (1996).

Winstar/Fox Lorber's 1999 DVD release is still the only U.S. version available, and it's atrocious. The print is panned-and-scanned with non-optional subtitles. The picture is fuzzy and looks as if it may have been transferred from a VHS tape. Extras include filmographies (now out of date) and awards. It also has perhaps the worst DVD box cover ever designed (tied with MGM's cover for Truly Madly Deeply).

Movies Unlimtied