Tuesday, March 08, 2011

La Collectionneuse

Words, works of art - and silences - are but the razor blades to keep an annular space of void, a zone of no-entry, between the world that constantly endeavours to attack us and the self. That is what Daniel articulates but that is also what every Rohmer character does in La Collectionneuse. The film is nothing but a deep, patient study of the decay of society: Adrien's vain solitude and Haydée's pointless flirtations and love-making are sadly not even due to an inordinate appetite, but those are the razor blades that each one has selected to keep everyone else at bay. At once narcissistic and unable to love, the choice before them is to manifest in deeds and words - or silences - their identity and their existence.

The private space of any human being is sacrosanct, but that private space is also peopled, and not sterile: peopled however by one's own emotions, beliefs and love for others, because alone in myself I cannot know myself. It is in the other's eye that I have a role, it is in the other's laugh: mechanical sex only makes me identify myself as a pump though I may believe that I have given the world a pump and retained myself intact. Which and what myself? Love is in the loving.

Haydée Politoff as Haydée is perfect; it is surprising that how did she never become a famous actress, considering that she is not only beautiful and can look dumb, but also that she is someone who would slip into most parts very well: she is not gorgeous and yet charming, and the air of mystery that can be construed both as real mystery and as dumbness multiplies the number of possibilities of roles for her. Camera work in the film plays a key role; it's a leisurely observation of chameleons basking in the sun, and all one should keep in mind is to let the viewer feel everything: every movement and every smile, the nap in the sun and the swim in the sea. Expressions on the faces of both the lead characters are focussed upon for great lengths of times, and the rest of the characters have been given a bit of a short shrift.

It's always puzzling to me why Rohmer used to make such films? If you remove the prologue, most viewers would be at a loss to understand the film: most of them anyway I guess watch it to gawk on Haydée Politoff. The film is like a camera observing how flies die: however, Rohmer instead of showing human existence as purposeless shows how the riches and the beauties are there and yet it is we who make of ourselves the flies. Words are for reaching out, and there already exists a void between the expression and the enunciation, so there is never the danger of the sacred space getting violated: yet, when we begin to understand ourselves from our own words, when we begin to take the proof as the all there is to it, when we lose track of discrepancy between the parole and the parler, it is then we erect razors, and we see words as razors: it is then that we start searching for our identity in every night's pleasure and in every witty statement.

A beautiful film by Eric Rohmer, with the typical French pace of cinéma, there is hardly a moment where the viewer is not engaged.