La Collectionneuse (The Collector) [DVD]
Director : Eric Rohmer
Screenplay : Eric Rohmer
MPAA Rating : PG
Year of Release : 1967
Stars : Patrick Bauchau (Adrien), Haydée Politoff (Haydée), Daniel Pommereulle (Daniel), Alain Jouffroy (Writer), Mijanou Bardot (Carole), Annik Morice (Amie de Carole), Dennis Berry (Charlie)
La Collectionneuse (The Collector) was the fourth of Eric Rohmer’s “Six Moral Tales,” although it was shot and released third because Rohmer had to wait several years for his choice of lead actor in My Night at Maud’s, the third tale, to become available. In a sense, this worked to the film’s advantage because La Collectionneuse is a simpler, although no less profound and intriguing, story than My Night at Maud’s. The story’s isolated location on the Côte d’Azur lends it a sense of smallness, but also intense focus.
La Collectionneuse presented many firsts for Rohmer. It was the first feature-length “Moral Tale” and his first film to be shot in color by the soon-to-be-great cinematographer Nestor Almendros, who would go on to work with Rohmer on nine more films, including the final three “Moral Tales.” Almendros had already worked with Rohmer on his 1964 short film Nadja à Paris, his 1966 short documentary Une étudiante d’aujourd’hui (A Modern Coed), and “Place de l’Etoile,” Rohmer’s contribution to the 1965 French New Wave omnibus film Paris vu par ....
Despite having already forged a working relationship, Rohmer and Almendros were faced with a whole new set of challenges in shooting La Collectionneuse, primarily because they were shooting color 35mm for the first time with an extremely limited budget. The result, though, is a perfect example of how supposedly limiting conditions actually functional as artistic enablers. The small budget, minimal amount of film stock, and short shooting schedule forced Rohmer and Almendros to make the most of everything they had, which resulted in a film of great natural beauty that completely belies their limited means.
La Collectionneuse is the story of a triangle of sorts--I would say “love triangle,” but there is no love involved. The characters are too shallow for something as profound as love. In fact, when one character accuses the other of having too many lovers, she replies that she has, in fact, never had a lover. She has slept with many young men, but no love was ever involved. They were acts of exploration, which more than anything describes the approach the three central characters have toward life. Despite being adults in age, they are adolescents at heart who are still trying to find their way in the world.
The story takes place over a summer at a lonely villa in Saint-Tropez, which has been loaned out to three people. Adrien (Patrick Bauchau) is an antiquities dealer who claims to have never had a vacation in 10 years, although another character later suggests that his entire life amounts to little more than a “permanent vacation.” He shares the villa with his friend, Daniel (Daniel Pommereulle), a moody and self-possessed artist whose works include a painted cylinder lined with razor blades that he hopes will cut people who are not “sharp.”
Adrien and Daniel are surprised and dismayed to find that the villa’s owner has also lent it out to Haydée (Haydée Politoff), a slender young college student whose nocturnal activities disturb the two men, both of whom are determined to do absolutely nothing during their vacation. In fact, everything about Haydée disturbs the two older men, especially her unabashed promiscuity. Adrien, who is involved with a model currently on assignment in London, feels conflicted about Haydée: Part of him is repulsed by her youthful sexual exploits, while another part of him is intrigued, if not attracted. Daniel is more obtuse in his reactions to Haydée, although he ends up sleeping with her, largely because Adrien pushes her off on him.
As with Rohmer’s previous “Moral Tales,” we see the events in La Collectionneuse directly through the eyes of a male protagonist, in this case, Adrien. Adrien’s voice-over narration reflects his insight into both himself and others, but it is often woefully (and sometimes amusingly) contradicted by the events we see unfold (he assumes that everything is about him). Rohmer’s male protagonists are frequently misguided in their pompous self-assuredness, and Adrien differs only in the sense that he is older and should know better. The characters of Rohmer’s previous “Moral Tales,” the short films The Bakery Girl of Monceau (1962) and Suzanne’s Career (1963), were both students and could therefore be forgiven their impudence. Adrien has no real excuse except his own self-gratifying arrested development.
La Collectionneuse is a beautifully shot film, with Almendros’ cinematography genuinely glowing with the summer light and clear ocean air. But, despite the clarity of the imagery, it is not a portrait of psychological clarity. The central characters, particularly the ever elusive Haydée, remain enigmatic until the end, refusing to fully reveal their inner selves.
Rohmer’s depiction of Haydée, the “collector” of the title, seems thoroughly calculated to refute any simple explanations. She is introduced in the film’s opening shots, bikini-clad walking on a beach, clearly sexualized through the kind of fragmented editing that Laura Mulvey and other feminist critics have deplored as central to objectifying women in film. Yet, she is not a fully feminine character, as her boyish haircut and lanky body suggest girlishness--almost tom-boyishness. She is no more articulate than the male characters, and she appears to alternately allow herself to be manipulated and manipulate the men around her. She is simultaneously naïve and self-aware.
Daniel remains bluntly opaque throughout, and while Adrien tries mightily to understand himself and others, he fails, sheepishly returning (as all Rohmer’s “Moral Tales” protagonists do) to the woman he was with originally. One gets the sense that he is not terribly wiser for his experiences, which casts a dark pall over the film. Rohmer’s films never center on grand revelations, but La Collectionneuse seems particularly intent on showing how its characters remain sadly mired in their own lack of insight.
|La Collectionneuse Criterion Collection DVD|
|La Collectionneuse is available exclusively as part of the Criterion Collection’s six-disc box set “Eric Rohmer’s Six Moral Tales,” which also includes The Bakery Girl of Monceau , Suzanne’s Career, My Night at Maud’s, Claire’s Knee, and Love in the Afternoon. In addition to supplements on each disc, the box set includes a paperback of the original stories by Eric Rohmer, as well as an insert booklet featuring Rohmer’s landmark essay “For a Talking Cinema,” excerpts from cinematographer Nestor Almendros’s autobiography, and new essays by Geoff Andrew, Ginette Vincendeau, Phillip Lopate, Kent Jones, Molly Haskell, and Armond White.|
|Audio||French Dolby Digital 1.0 Monaural|
|Distributor||The Criterion Collection|
|SRP||$99.95 (box set)|
|Release Date||August 15, 2006|
|VIDEO & AUDIO|
|The high-definition transfer of La Collectionneuse was taken directly from the original 35mm camera negative and looks absolutely fantastic. Nestor Almendros’s luminous color cinematography, which made almost exclusive use of natural light, is beautifully maintained. The MTI Digital Restoration System has removed any traces of age and wear, resulting in a clear, filmlike image that looks like it was shot yesterday. The monaural soundtrack, transferred at 24-bit from the 35mm magnetic track, also sound excellent. Unlike Rohmer’s first two “Morale Tales,” La Collectionneuse has a fairly complex soundtrack with a great deal of subtle ambient noises like birds chirping and airplanes flying overhead that are perfectly rendered.|
|The supplements on this disc include Rohmer’s 1966 short documentary A Modern Coed, which details the increasing commonality and changing nature of female college students in France in the 1960s (it was also shot by Nestor Almendros) and a 50-minute interview with Rohmer from a 1977 episode of the TVOntario program Parlons cinéma. In the interview, Rohmer talks in-depth about making La Collectionneuse, as well as working on other films in the “Six Moral Tales.”|
Copyright ©2006 James Kendrick
Thoughts? E-mail James Kendrick
All images copyright © The Criterion Collection