Lust and personal resolve collide in Rohmer’s first feature in colour, lensed with warmth and sensuality by Days of Heaven’s Nestor Almendros.
Dir. Eric Rohmer
1967 | France | Drama | 86 mins | 1.37:1 | French
Not rated – likely to be NC16 for some sexual references
Cast: Patrick Bauchau, Haydee Politoff, Daniel Pommereulle
Plot: A womanizing art dealer and a painter find the serenity of their Riviera vacation disturbed by a third guest, a vivacious bohemian woman known for her long list of male conquests.
Awards: Won Silver Bear – Special Jury Prize & Youth Film Award (Berlinale)
Source: Les Films du Losange
Subject Matter: Moderate – Desire, Morals
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse
Viewed: Criterion Blu-ray
La Collectionneuse (or The Collector) was not just Eric Rohmer’s first feature shot in colour, but also Nestor Almendros’ first feature credit as a cinematographer.
Most cinephiles would have heard of Almendros, particularly his iconic work for Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven (1978) that he lensed with such exquisite warmth and beauty.
His hallmark naturalistic cinematography was already evident here from the get-go as Rohmer adapted one of his ‘Moral Tales’ for the big screen.
One might find La Collectionneuse to be more of a cinematic experiment than a proper film, but that is not to say that there is nothing substantial going on here. It feels more like a transient piece by Rohmer, where the story is loosely developed and its trio of characters casually developed.
There’s a greater sense of spontaneity to the filmmaking here than in most films by Rohmer, which are already spontaneous enough as his conversational style of storytelling would attest.
“I’m still interested in perversity. But nothing like that kind of chick.”
Here we have Adrien, Daniel and Haydee who happen to temporarily occupy a 17th-century villa on the Riviera during a summer break. Haydee, a young bohemian, disrupts the peace as she comes in between the duo (who are friends but not particularly close), seemingly hoping to attract them sexually.
A film about the psychological, and sometimes, emotional collision between lust and the personal resolve to resist one’s desires, La Collectionneuse interestingly pits one girl against two guys in a tug-of-war of seduction and resistance.
Under Rohmer’s assured hands, this moral tale doesn’t easily fall into the trap of a ‘battle-of-the-sexes’ melodrama with cheap fireworks.
It may not always be engaging, but what emerges is a careful dissection of what it means to attract and repel the opposite sex as each character tries to live within the present and in each other’s inviting (and annoying) presence.