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1996's 'A Summer's Tale,' A Story Of Young Love And Its Pratfalls, Finally Gets Released

French people are so improbably beautiful it makes you sick: Amanda Langlet and Melvil Poupaud in Éric Rohmer's 'A Summer's Tale' (courtesy of Big World Pictures)
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Celebrated French New Wave veteran Éric Rohmer's late career in the 1990s was mostly comprised of his highly-regarded Tales Of The Four Seasons, a quartet of romantic comedies each set within its own part of the year. Somehow, 1996's A Summer's Tale never saw distribution in the United States at the time, but thanks to a sparkling new digital restoration from Big World Pictures (who also brought us the underappreciated In Bloom earlier this year), it hits the big screen across the Atlantic.

Gaspard (Melvil Poupaud) is a freshly graduated engineering student who comes to the Brittany coast for a summer getaway before his new career. Waiting for a flaky female companion who may or may not be his girlfriend (he doesn't seem to be entirely sure), he spends his first two days alone, wandering the quaint seaside village on his own and writing music at night. After two days of isolation he befriends Margot (Rohmer veteran Amanda Langlet), a beautiful student making money on holiday as a waitress at the local crêperie. Sparks fly and the sexual tension between the two is taut, but their chemistry is primarily at an intellectual level and blockaded by Gaspard's hope that Lena (Aurelia Nolin) eventually does show up.

Gaspard's idyllic summer gets monkey-wrenched when the free-spirited Solene (Gwenaëlle Simon) becomes a part of the picture and the late arrival of Lena, an ice queen whose will he is unable to decipher. A Summer's Tale is a breezy comedy of naive romanticism and petty jealousies, a portrait of freer and youthful days fraught by the uncertainty of years ahead. A young man caught up between three women (Summer was the only one of his Four Seasons films to be centered on a male protagonist), Gaspard ultimately makes a decision that is at the same both heartbreaking and the most ideally romantic for himself. With Rohmer's passing four years ago at the age of 89, the return of A Summer's Tale is a lovely posthumous farewell from a master of romantic follies.

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A Summer's Tale opens Friday at Laemmle's Royal (West L.A.), Playhouse 7 (Pasadena), and Town Center 5 (Encino).