I have previously written in this space of Eric Rohmer’s film L’amour après-midi, in my opinion, the best film of one of the best filmmakers after the incomparable Robert Bresson. (I have written about Bresson here) There is another of Rohmer’s films that I think is especially noteworthy, L’heure bleu (The Blue Hour). It is the first of four short films that make up The Four Adventures of Reinette and Mirabelle (1987). (Alas, so far as I can tell, there is no DVD with English subtitles, though VHS tapes with them are available from Amazon.com.)
This compilation of shorts is unusual for Rohmer in that romance is not central to it, in fact is mentioned only briefly once. It is rather a film about friendship. The Blue Hour is the first of the shorts. In it, the bicycle of Mirabelle, who is visiting the countryside, has a flat. A total stranger, Reinette, who happens to come along helps her. Reinette is a recent high school graduate who is going to study art in Paris. Mirabelle is a chic and somewhat reserved Parisian college student; Reinette is friendly and ingenuous. As we get to know them, however, Rohmer surprises us. Mirabelle is more open than she first appears and Reinette less uncomplicated.
The blue hour (I am not sure if this is folklore or an invention of Rohmer) is actually a brief moment of total silence when the night sounds have ended and morning ones have yet to occur. Reinette tells Mirabelle of this, saying, if the world ever ends, she thinks it will be at the blue hour. She very much wants Mirabelle to experience it, but the first attempt is foiled. The second (largely due to Mirabelle herself) succeeds. I have seen The Four Adventures of Reinette and Mirabelle a number of times and have always liked it as nice, amusing shorts that, to some extent, provide a study of friendship. But at my most recent viewing in the spring, the ending of the The Blue Hour really struck me. The penultimate scene conveyed to me a sense of cosmic joy I have not seen in any other film.
Shmuel Ben-Gad is a librarian at George Washington University.