A Movie Log

A blog formerly known as Bookishness

By Charles Matthews

Sunday, January 3, 2016

La Collectionneuse (Éric Rohmer, 1967)

The French New Wave films launched numerous film acting careers, most notably those of the hyphenated Jeans: Jean-Paul Belmondo, Jean-Louis Trintignant, and Jean-Pierre Léaud. One of the longest of them has been that of Patrick Bauchau, the lead actor of Éric Rohmer's La Collectionneuse. Though his name may not be as well-known as the other three, he has worked steadily since his uncredited debut in Rohmer's short film Suzanne's Career (1963), the second of the director's "Six Moral Tales." La Collectionneuse is the fourth of the tales. though it was filmed before the third in the series, My Night at Maud's (1969). It was an impressive feature debut for Bauchau, whose later work includes a turn as a Bond villain in A View to a Kill (John Glen, 1985), and appearances on many American TV series. Bauchau's character, Adrien, is introduced to us in one of three brief prologues. The first shows Haydée (Haydée Politoff) walking along the beach in a bikini. In the second, the artist Daniel (Daniel Pommereulle) discusses one of his pieces, a paint can studded with razor blades, with a writer (Alain Jouffroy). And in the third Adrien and his girlfriend, Carole (Mijanou Bardot), and a friend of hers (Annik Morice), talk about beauty in that elevated French intellectual way familiar to viewers of Rohmer's films. We learn that Adrien is going to stay with Daniel in a house in the south of France while Carole does a modeling job in London. When the two men get to the villa they discover that they're sharing it with the 20-year-old Haydée. The potential of this ménage à trois is obvious, especially after Adrien finds Haydée in bed with a young man -- the first of many. But this being one of Rohmer's morality plays, things do not go quite so obviously. For one thing, Adrien has sworn that he will spend his vacation doing nothing, which includes having sex. He calls Haydée a "collector" because of her sleeping around. But with actors as attractive as the young Bauchau and Politoff the sexual tension persists. The film develops into a satire on the pretensions and artifice of intellectuals, without ever tipping its hand in the direction it's going. (Though there is a priceless Chinese vase -- Adrien is an art dealer -- that is something of a Chekhov's gun.) Much of the film's dialogue was improvised by the three principals. The brilliant cinematography is by Rohmer's frequent collaborator Néstor Almendros.

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