French writer-director Eric Rohmer’s wonderful half-dozen Moral Tales are essentially all variations on one plot: A guy meets a woman, then he meets another whose attentions make him agonize over everything he believes about himself (i.e., his ”moral” code) until finally, after much consideration and conversation…well, let’s say there’s a pattern.
Rohmer’s are among the most famous talking pictures in all of cinema. If you’re new to them, start with one of the three chatty masterpieces: My Night at Maud’s (1969), Claire’s Knee (1970), or 1972’s Chloe in the Afternoon (called Love in the Afternoon here). Actually, start with Claire or Chloe and work up to Maud, widely considered the finest of Rohmer’s 30-plus films, but so dialogue-stuffed it might put off novices. For old fans, the jewels are the remaining unsung Moral Tales; Suzanne’s Career (1963) in particular is a small revelation, a Paris time capsule that, almost out of nowhere, boasts the most ironic, pointed, and devastating ending of the whole bunch. The extras are a cornucopia even by Criterion’s generous standards: two booklets, short films, trailers, archival interviews, an afterword by Neil LaBute (who can’t resist calling the Moral Tales ”emotion pictures”), and an 80-minute April 2006 interview with Rohmer, who, at 86, admits that the unnamed picture he’s now working on might be his last.