By Geoff Andrew - February 7-14 1996
When Clara Bellar wrote to Eric Rohmer inviting him to a lowly stage production of 'Sleeping Beauty', friends said she was mad. They were wrong: after seeing her performance, the veteran film-maker suggested they meet for tea at his office. There, she told him two true stories: one about how she was chatted up by a boy called Angel, only to find later that her purse was missing; the other about two actress friends who, unbeknownst to each other, were dating the same actor. Rohmer, looking to make an inexpensive movie consisting of short stories about romantic encounters in Paris, was hooked: he combined the two stories and asked Bellar to play the lead.
Working on 'Rendez-Vous in Paris', says Bellar (now 23), was both a joy and an education. 'Rohmer still makes movies like a young man. For the market scene, we had one actor and myself, a sound man following us behind the stalls, and Rohmer himself pushing the camerawoman around a wheelchair! We thought we were just rehearsing, but he shot it! When we began work on the film, he was very open to suggestion; but once he's written the script, he changes nothing.'
Bellar wanted to act even as a child, when her parents would take her to the cinema four or five times a week: 'lots of '30ies and '40ies movies, Astaire, the Marx Brothers and so on. I still love watching movies, so it's great to be involved in the. I'm currently preparing a short of my own. I'd really like to get into writing and directing, and working with Rohmer has been very helpful; in fact, I think one reason he makes films so simply and cheaply is to show young people it's possible.'
Besides Rohmer's film, made three years ago now, since drama school Bellar has appeared in the theater and several short movies. 'Rendez-Vous', however, raised her profile enough to ensure an increase in work offers; when we met in November she'd recently completed a TV film about a blind girl, and was about to go to Tunisia to take the lead 'in a very violent film, about transgression'. At the same time, she was expressing enthusiasm over a script, given her by Michael Maloney, for an English romantic comedy. Should the project go ahead, Paris's loss may be London's gain.