La Collectionneuse is a contemplative film with powerful strokes of philosophy and sexuality under the surface. In part due to the his first feature arriving years after theirs, director Eric Rohmer never reached the stature of Godard or Truffaut. However, Rohmer is just as noteworthy for approaching film with a high degree of personal artistry and for defying conventions.
- Director: Eric Rohmer
- Writer: Patrick Bauchau, Haydee Politoff, Daniel Pommereulle, Eric Rohmer
- Cast: Patrick Bauchau, Haydee Politoff, Daniel Pommereulle, Alain Jouffroy
Haydee (Haydee Politoff) is a promiscuous woman spending several weeks with her friends Adrien (Patrick Bauchau) and Daniel (Daniel Pommereulle). As Haydee spends many of her days dating and adding young men to her “collection”, Adrien and Daniel prefer to spend their time doing as little as possible. Meanwhile, philosophical conversations transpire and mind games seem constant. Tensions build, but the reasons are not always quite so clear.
As was common with French New Wave Cinema, La Collectionneuse does its best to reject a plot-heavy story. Instead, much of the film takes place within the minimalist setting of a villa in the country. Though it may sound boring to watch a trio of directionless youth sitting around with nothing to do, their idleness is one of the film’s best qualities. While not conventionally paced or structured, La Collectionneuse provides a fair share of engaging dialogue debating beauty vs. ugliness, industriousness vs. leisure, and moral behavior vs. carefree lifestyles. But even the way in which these topics are explored is far from elaborate. Instead, conversations take place on a more casual level, much as they would in real life.
Whether you like this film or not, it is appealing how Rohmer observes his subjects without attaching an exaggerated sense of importance to his story or to his own artistic goals. I’m not even sure there is a single character that demands our sympathy, as each characters seems purposeless, somewhat apathetic, narcissistic, and therefore blatantly flawed. And yet, their honesty is inviting and refreshing. In ways that a more sexually explicit film can only dream, Haydee Politoff lends each scene a type of sexual charge that can only be achieved under the notion that “less is more”. Haydee is sexy without trying to be. In some scenes, mere implications and discussions about sexuality are enough to be provocative. As a whole, the characters are at once repelling and engaging, and their questioning of life itself instills the film with a tone fitting for an art movement known for its own critical approach to film.
Brief Words for Mr. Ebert:
Ebert hits the nail on the head when he begins his review by establishing the appeal of La Collectionneuse. While there is no sex in this film, there is much discussion about it. Ebert is fond of Rohmer, much like Rohmer is fond of his actors, whom he “caresses with the camera” as they speak freely and at length throughout the film. In many cases, they speak literally about the possibility of caressing each other. In most movies, the subject matter would fail, but in Rohmer’s hands it feels natural. What I find perplexing about this film’s appeal is also addressed by Ebert when he states that the characters “are not invariably moral, nor was their alleged morality necessarily one we would agree with.” These characters should be despised, but they’re not. Though this is my first Rohmer film, I agree with Ebert that this film creates a sense of peaceful regard, largely due to Rohmer’s patience in telling a story where characters talk to each other instead of at each other.
Good, Bad or Great Movie: GOOD
Do you like La Collectionneuse? Do you consider this film to be Good, Bad, or does it stand up as Great?
Next week’s review: Barry Lyndon
Years ago, ScreenCrave contributor Jaime Lopez privately began tackling Roger Ebert’s “Greatest Films” list, a monolith of celluloid currently comprised of approximately 363 films (more if you count the trilogies, the Up docs and Decalogue). Lopez has set himself to put these remaining films’ “Greatness” to the test–reviewing both the movies themselves and Ebert’s response. By taking on Eric Rohmer’s La Collectionneuse this week, he now has 336 under his belt and less than 30 films left to go