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May 28, 2014

Two by Alain Robbe-Grillet

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The Man who Lies / L'homme qui meant
Alain Robbe-Grillet - 1968

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Eden and After / L'eden et l'apres
Alain Robbe-Grillet - 1970

both Kino Classics / Redemption Films BD Region A

I feel mixed about Robbe-Grillet's films. I'm glad that they are available to be seen again, theoretically by more people than had the chance to view these films theatrically. At the same time, I think what is on screen is more interesting as an idea for film. What may have seen interesting on paper works better in one's imagining of a scene than what is played on film.

Not surprisingly then, the high points of both The Man who Lies and Eden and After aren't the films, but the supplementary interviews where Robbe-Grillet discusses how the films were made. It is surprising that both films actually are the results of chance in differing degrees. For The Man who Lies, the invitation to make a film in Czechoslovakia leads to the discovery of a small castle in disrepair, followed by the inspiration of Borges' short story, "Theme of the Traitor and the Hero", where the two are actually the same person. Adding Jean-Louis Trintignant allowed for French production money. As for the film, what we see and what Trintignant says are two different things, such as claiming to go to an empty bar, when we see it full of men. We see enough to known not to trust anything that Trintignant's character says. And other films have employed the same story telling mode, though not as an entire feature. As such, it brings up a very valid discussion about uses of film narrative, but in practice, this doesn't quite work in the same way as Hitchcock's Stage Fright where the viewer gets absorbed by Marlene Dietrich's extended flashback, and the rug is pulled under the viewer when it's been revealed that her story is a lie.

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More astonishing is to learn that Eden and After was made without a script, and that Catherine Jourdan was cast only three days before shooting. Jourdan's double who appears near the end of the film was the fiancee of one of the actors, and a quick addition to the narrative in progress. In a very abstract way, the film is a reflection of that time of student rebellion. And certainly it is easy to see why Robbe-Grillet would end up creating what exists of a story around Jourdan, very watchable in her very short minidresses, very high red boots, and flash of panties. In his interview, Robbe-Grillet points out a visual joke, a literal rendering of Duchamp's painting "Nude Descending a Stairway". And I agree with the interviewer that the film is visually stunning. There is also some sado-masochistic images that probably seemed more shocking in 1970. For all that, the parts don't add up to much, making me think of two better films of women losing themselves in North Africa, The Sheltering Sky and Gavin Lambert's Another Sky. I have not seen the supplement, Robbe-Grillet's reworking of the Eden and After footage titled N. Took the Dice, but if I was a gambling man, I would guess the "Sky" is the limit.

Posted by peter at May 28, 2014 08:04 AM