Istanbul, Byzantium that was. The Trial (dir. Orson Welles) is intimately related, The Immortal Story as well, doubtless. The opening shot of city walls reflects the headdress of an ancient personification, also in the soundtrack it prefigures a famous effect in Losey’s Accident.
The cocktail party sequence makes use of Hitchcock’s transitions from one reel to the next in Rope as a device to shift the scene. The great mosque is a variant of Kafka’s “Before the Law”. The French Lieutenant’s Woman (Karel Reisz) borrows the rowboat and tunnel.
The haphazard cemetery resembles the Selenite kingdom from Juran’s First Men in the Moon, out of it rise Valéry’s columns. The headstones every which way are said to be planted that way and used when they fall as paving stones.
The river café is passed by a steamship close at hand, the Turkish flag is lowered at the stern in a few seconds to the right of the shot, a second personification of L stands on the café terrace left, wearing a print dress of Maltese crosses or croix pattés.
The statuette (left arm and right knee raised) is still in the bazaar after N has purchased it for L. Her address is not written. M’s two dogs each figure in the death of L and N, her silver chain signifies la belle captive, he follows the same route.
The palace fronts along the river are ruins behind. The Greek boy shows the underground passages that figure famously in Young’s From Russia with Love, columns half-submerged in water.
Trans Europ Express
A film devised aboard the “train à location obligatoire”. Trintignant as the recruit has Marnie under cover of Transes (Trances), he hides his revolver amid “messages maritimes”.
Paris-Antwerp (Anvers), Hotel Miro. Robbe-Grillet’s soundtrack is in continual activity. Abbé Petitjean is the byword. A bottle of Gueuze, the blind man...
And there you are, done on your second trip by the boss, the first is a dry run, without “la coco”.
Abbé Petitjean drinks at Chez Samson. Canada Steamship Lines has seen better days, Lambermont has his memorial. Diamonds would be better, they do diamonds in Antwerp, is the critique. A dead prostitute is the key, leading to the Cabaret Eve and “L’Esclave”, where the police close in.
“For comic dialogue,” wrote Renata Adler, “Robbe-Grillet is no Ivy Compton-Burnett.” Furthermore, it “begins to seem a bright, arbitrary relief from the serious artist’s necessary but probably paranoid notion that things make any sense at all” (New York Times). “The vague modernism of the project can’t conceal an underlying pomposity” (Time Out Film Guide). Halliwell’s Film Guide has “almost succeeds”.
The war, the two wars, one and the same.
L’Homme qui ment
A singular parallel emanates from Bertolucci in Partner at this time and continues in Il Conformista (the opening scene) but above all Strategia del ragno, q.v., finally 1900 addresses the Jean/Boris cul-de-sac.
Trintignant is an actor (un comédien), Boris Varissa, who tells tales of his Resistance colleague Jean Robin. Each tale is defective or contradicts another, meanwhile he enters into affairs with Robin’s maid Maria, his sister Sylvia, and nearly his wife Laura, before Robin returns and kills him, whereupon Varissa once again embarks on the true story for the camera’s benefit.
L’Éden et après
A film about the making of a movie, the students at the Eden café are actors, the “stranger” who enters is Char’s “ringleader”, the director.
The film is made up of cinematic metaphors, like Monroe Stahr’s famous monologue in Kazan’s The Last Tycoon. These include the Dalian image of a simple abstract picture that turned on its side becomes an Arab house, this stands for the central performance and the climax of the film. Others readily identifiable are the Venusian beauty and her mirror (a double), followed by the complementary image of a man dispatching his rival, conclusive images.
“J’ai retrouvé la mer,” says the girl at the seaside, entering the sunshot sea.
The opening credits, partly spoken, are a gift from Welles and Hitchcock (North by Northwest). Duchamp’s nude descends a spiral staircase to a saddle. Mirages, dramas, adventures, romance, intrigue, the representation of these, then back to the café and its neon signboard with half a pair of dice bearing a quincunx.
N. a pris les dés
The famous anagram of L’Éden et après. “Chance, too, has its laws, they say.”
The chancy, revelatory proposition that a detective story isn’t reality, it’s art. That “the string of images has no meaning, hopeful or otherwise, than the one given by the spectator or abandoned, out of laziness or out of fear.”
N., one of the students, performs this operation of “three dice with six sides”.
Imagery from Wesselmann and Lichtenstein and Antonioni (Il deserto rosso).
Glissements progressifs du plaisir
A vicious circle.
Simply a tribade murder, a pair of scissors in the heart. It was a man, surely! Joan of Arc in the convent ward convokes a Sapphic salon. Her avocate is the spitting image of the corpse!
It is a desperate struggle, of words and ideas, the verity of the thing. A crime always reconstructed, the inspector tells the camera.
Robbe-Grillet’s great masterpiece on a theme of French poetry (Baudelaire, Verlaine) turned to cinema by grace of the detective and Dreyer and The Exorcist. A few frames of Dreyer’s Vampyr are all the basis.
The Italian version of Le Jeu avec le feu has its points, in terms of hilarity.
The one about the dodgy banker’s girl who’s abducted for ransom, or rather some other girl with a birthmark on her left breast resembling a pawnbroker’s emblem.
The banker’s girl is put away for safekeeping in a high-class bordello with reference to Le Sang du Poète, and it all ends happily, the banker shoots himself, Frantz a pris la demoiselle et les dollars.
One of the funniest films ever made, to be sure.
There is a beautiful key (Sight and Sound points this out) in Goethe’s “Die Braut von Korinth”, but there is another even lovelier and much closer to home, No, No, Nanette (dir. Herbert Wilcox).
Robbe-Grillet’s hero has no niece to save his bacon from a generosity born of happy wedlock, he goes before the firing squad and gets it in the neck.
Such is criticism (the BFI likes not this picture).
The Blue Villa (Hong Kong). Der fliegende Holländer (Frank, Le Voyeur).
The continuous Robbe-Grillet soundtrack (colonne sonore). Mah jongg tiles shuffled, “a sound that drives one mad”.
Vermeer at police headquarters (The Typist).
Beckett’s dance numbers have the implacability of the game. Who murdered the girl, her stepfather who stood to gain, or pale Frank (L’Immortelle, Le Jeu avec le feu)?
Frank et Santa, “pitié pour eux”. Fred Ward, looking like Ezra Pound. Herzog’s taverna band (Letzte Worte) plays the overture. Nordmann (the accused, Edouard).
Mars runs the place, a name from Chandler and Hawks and Winner. “Exterior. Day.” It was not to be understood by critics.
“A dreamy puzzle of a film” (Stephen Holden, New York Times). “Commercial chances look watery in the extreme” (Derek Elley, Variety). “We’re unsure” (Geoff Andrew, Time Out Film Guide). “An aesthetic tease without many payoffs” (Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader).
Co-directed with Dimitri de Clercq.
C’est Gradiva qui vous appelle
An absolute masterpiece of pure Surrealism, on the model of Cocteau’s Le Sang d’un Poète, the art historian and his book on Delacroix.
Robbe-Grillet’s last film is very easily understood as a simple or complex variant of La Belle captive, set in Marrakesh where John Locke the art expert imagines he’s Eugène Delacroix at length, in pursuit of Hermione or Leïla or Gradiva Rediviva (1806-1842), while the lovely Belkis repines at home.
Madama Butterfly has a substantial part to play in this, Delacroix’s carnets as well, Cocteau’s Orphée, also footage from L’Éden et après and Glissements progressifs du plaisir.
An actress, model, memoirist, “dream actress”, Gradiva, published by Macmillan.
An earlier version by Albertazzi or the original novel is the reference in several synopses mentioning Pompeii, so little is this great work known.