The 87-year-old Eric Rohmer has turned back to period films in his late career â€” 2000’s digitally assisted "The Lady and the Duke" is set in the French Revolution, 2004’s "Triple Agent" around Paris in the political escalations of the 1930s. "The Romance of AstreÃ© and CÃ©ladon," which is allegedly Rohmer’s last, is located in what must by the most potentially silly era for a film outside of the prehistoric setting of "Quest for Fire": fifth-century Gaul, where shepherds, shepherdesses, druids and nymphs frolic through bucolic pastures, falling in and out of love, talking about love, attempting suicide over love and dressing up in drag on behalf of love. An adaptation of HonorÃ© d’UrfÃ©’s 17th century novel, "The Romance of AstreÃ© and CÃ©ladon" is by no means meant to be grimily realistic, but it is unfortunately reminiscent of watching a high school drama club bedeck themselves in flowers and cunning little outfits made from old sheets and head out to the park to rehearse "A Midsummer Night’s Dream." CÃ©ladon (Andy Gillet) is an extremely good-looking shepherd and AstrÃ©e (StÃ©phanie de Crayencour) is his almost-as-pretty shepherdess sweetheart. She doubts his love after a misunderstanding; he immediately attempts to drown himself in the river. She realizes the error of his ways and mourns him, but he’s not actually dead, just being held captive by amorous nymphs. CÃ©ladon escapes, but refuses to tell AstrÃ©e he’s alive because the last time he saw her, she ordered him from her sight, and he reasons that such is his love that he would never disobey a command. Further hijinks ensue, as do lengthy discussions on love and fidelity, some involving the cheerfully faithless Hylas, played by Rodolphe Pauly, who may have the most irritating on-screen presence of any actor we’ve ever come across. The fixation on romance and the talkiness of the film are in line with Rohmer’s past work (as is the discussion that somehow makes 400s druid mythology into Catholicism), but the stylizedly trivial nature and frankly clumsy filmmaking (background sounds overwhelm, and in one scene an actress is obviously trying to ward off the over-enthusiastic hand gestures of another) make this film one that will prove watchable only to stalwart Rohmer completists.
"The Romance of AstreÃ© and CÃ©ladon" screens September 29 at 10am and September 30 at 9:15pm at Frederick P. Rose Hall. It currently has no US distribution.