A Frenchman traveling in Istanbul meets a beautiful, secretive, exotic woman who may or may not be involved in a criminal conspiracy. He is entranced, but she remains, maddeningly, just outside his reach as he pursues her.
After writing Last Year at Marienbad, “New Novel” pioneer Alain Robbe-Grillet started his own remarkable directing career with this fully-formed debut, a sexy, immersive, brain-teasing labyrinth of desire and mystery that stands as a bona fide shadow classic of the French New Wave.
A characteristically ornate elegy for authenticity, reduced, arguably, to a dated, somewhat campy curiosity by its exoticizing orientalism and its vexed relation--an enervating cocktail of awe, despair, and feigned aloofness--to the ostensibly Eternal Feminine. But I'm a sucker for this sort of thing, so I liked it.
It's Marienbad 2, and that shouldn't happen because Marienbad 1 is a masterpiece. Robbe-Grillet should have made films like Raul Ruiz, and instead he ended up making nudies. Watch 'Trans-Europ' and 'The Man Who Lies' instead.
Exotic and enigmatic; full of unanswered questions, mysteries and provocations relating to the nature of fiction and reality, psychology, and projections of the male gaze. The earlier sequence, which introduces the entire narrative as a series of static, stylised tableaux, would be plundered by von Trier for Melancholia. In short, an amazing experience; one of the major films of the 1960s and one of the most unsung.
In its central construction—a man, a woman, and a shadowy authority figure who looms over them—Robbe-Grillet's debut is like Marienbad, but it's also very much its own movie. My interpretation: most of it is in the man's head, as he's warned not to buy into exotic fantasies of Otherness (women, the East) but does so anyway. But interpretation is almost optional; the sensory trip alone is brilliantly mesmerizing.
L'Immortelle creates an atmosphere of mystery. Beautifully shot in black and white, the film's character delves into the territory of dream and memory, as captured by the powerful performance of the Mysterious Woman. While decidedly slow, the sharply framed shots and the surreal character of the movie's repeated and recontextualized elements give both ambiguity and interpretation to this interesting work.
17 years after the second world war, 8 years after Dien Bien Fu, 1 year after the Algerian Revolution and those damned French are already assuming an arrogant posture. I suppose it takes a certain emotional detachment to come to terms with ones place in history. But compare this to the neo-realism of the Italians who had no choice but to look their world in the eyes. Give me Rossellini, De Sica or Fellini any day.