The sexiest part of Love in the Afternoon, the French director’s classic Eric Rohmer’s infidelity movie, is not the scene where Chloé and Frédéric almost consummate their flirtatious friendship. No, it’s the one where Frédéric buys a turtleneck. Early on in the movie, he traipses from store to store on his lunch break, eyeing various turtlenecks in different colors before ultimately landing on a plaid dress shirt, which he purchases at the insistence of a persistent shop girl with penciled-in eyebrows. He stands still, asking questions about whether or not the shirt will be too itchy as the shopgirl buttons him up. He doesn’t make a pass at her. He just kind of stands there and decides that he suddenly likes the shirt.
Rohmer’s movies are often like this. The best scenes in the French director’s oeuvre are the ones where nothing really happens at all. A light breeze passes over a woman’s face in Biarritz. A man drives a boat across an opalescent lake on the Swiss border, and the main thing you hear is the motor jackhammering across the waves. Someone smiles while putting down a coffee cup. But Rohmer’s best scenes are often also about the clothes. The turtleneck moment in Love in the Afternoon recurs throughout his films, because Rohmer’s men all have a sensual relationship with clothes. In Claire’s Knee, Jerome wears straw boater hats and crisp white shirts and high-waisted polyester bell bottoms. His button-downs are buttoned, down. His fisherman’s sweaters are practically off the shoulder. In La Collectionneuse, Adrien has a bob. He sits on the balcony with his shirt unbuttoned. He wears ties and tightly fitted suit pants. More often than not, in these movies, it is summertime and people are eating lunch outside or dancing or wading in the sea. 50 years later, this whole way of living is aspirational. More than that, in this weird post-covid milieu, Rohmer’s luxurious aesthetic idealism has come to seem like the predominant mood of the moment.
Have you met a Rohmer guy? Perhaps you already are one, or desire to be one, and don’t know it yet. A Rohmer guy is a guy who looks like he should be an extra in the movie The Green Ray: wearing a sweater while hanging out at the beach, despite the heat. Rohmer guys like to wear loose fitting shirts—preferably in polyester or linen. They wear big sunglasses. They often have bobs or whispy mullets or some other super sculpted hairstyle. Men who dress like they’re in Eric Rohmner movies probably own a Bode shirt, but not one that’s super recognizable—they like a translucent chemise. They probably own a Thom Browne jacket, a pair of JW Anderson loafers, and perhaps a Wales Bonner Adidas shirt. This is all to say: among a certain set of downtown types, Rohmer guys are not particularly rare. From where I sit, they’re everywhere—drinking an amaro at a bar, on vacation in the Hudson Valley sitting at a white, wrought iron table, reading a newspaper underneath a large tree.
I should stipulate: a Rohmer guy does not have to have even seen an Eric Rohmer movie. Rohmer guys can also take their inspiration from a myriad of other flicks that appear to revolve around going on a super-long vacation. Call Me By Your Name is a Rohmer guy movie, because most of it is about going swimming and eating fruit en plein air. Summer Hours is a Rohmer guy movie, Juliette Binoche being the biggest Rohmer guy of them all. The new Gucci biopic, although unreleased, appears to have Rohmer guy vibes, just by the look of Adam Driver in his big glasses taking vacation pics with Lady Gaga. The Rohmer guy lifestyle also extends to other facets of culture. The rollout for Tyler, the Creator’s Call Me if You Get Lost, has Rohmer guy vibes in that it’s partially set in “Geneva Switzerland,” and also because of the line “A young lady just fed me French Vanilla ice cream!” In Eric Rohmer’s cinema of sensuality, having fun, eating, lazing around, and causing drama with women is paramount.