REVIEW: Conversations in Rohmer Vol. 1 (La collectionneuse, 1967)

"Conversations in Rohmer" is a three-part discussion held between myself and kiddo in space (who shares a name with my Final Fantasy XI character, coincidentally enough) as part of The Corrierino's Welcome to the Abyss thread run by Philosophe rouge and LEAVES. The premise: partners select a director with whose work they are both unversed - in this case, Éric Rohmer - then select and view three of that director's films. Following each viewing, a conversation is held via private message so to prevent veteran viewers of the director in question from weighing in from a more experienced vantage.

tom: So, our mutual, premiere venture into the ouevre of Rohmer. To state it briefly, I'm impressed. Can't deny my immediate impression was along the lines of "Ah, one of those pretty-people-walking-beneath trees, allowing the viewer to draw their own implications things," but before I could think that a second time, I was drawn in.

What captured me, exactly, I can't quite put my finger on. A certain something about Rohmer's cinematography here, even in spite of the typically limiting 4:3 ratio, makes it extremely pleasing to behold. Our window is more or less reserved, taking a relatively distant perspective. With many other films this distance might come off as amateurish, but here it is somehow intimate. Perhaps Rohmer's apparent eye for nature and architecture and how he seems to let those aspects decide his compositions is to credit.

Similarly, a child's enchanted mind seems to contemplate nature in that neither nature's features (trees, stones) nor its actions (breeze, ripples) are taken for granted. La collectionneuse, for me, is at its most provocative when admiring these features and actions. Rarely since childhood do I consider such things beyond the obvious lest I be immersed in a hike or another similar activity.

Furthermore, features and actions combine in the characters, particularly the central Adrien and Haydée (though Daniel, who I might go as far as to call the most redeemable character, is not to be forgotten). I'm not sure I'd say La collectionneuse is subtle per se, but it speaks just as much through character action as it does dialogue and narration. These characters reminded me of Jane Austen's in a sense. They stay on a somewhat isolated estate, inviting guests and thinking very highly of their own selves while being too heady about social endeavors to realize they might be toyed with just as well as they are toying with others.

kiddoCertainly, as you say, a beautiful film to watch, not only because of the cinematography itself, but the combination of it and the constant shots of nature, especially at the first part of the film where the characters are in constantly in contact with the nature surrounding them. This creates a great visual experience, a pleasure to watch. But let's not forget the characters.

There's one thing you mention about characters, "features and actions combine in the characters" is what you said, it's good that you point it out since the whole film is about them. Plot? Not so much, thanks, it just becomes an excuse to watch the people inside the film interact, develop. 

Adrien might be the one I find the most interesting. He goes on vacation to do nothing, yet it seems his decisions deliberately lead him to do, well, something instead of what he really wanted. He apparently tries to stay away from Haydée, resulting in the opposite, he wants to send her away, she stays, etc. I asked to myself "Did he really want what he told us in his narration?" My answer was, no. At the end he was alone, but not for long.

tAbsolutely agreed regarding Adrien. His story is telling of many of our experiences and even our lives in that we may aim for one thing, thinking it is what we want, but we don't seem to truly know what we want until it is before us and we are going for it. This might even be confessed, in a sense, by Adrien himself when he narrates something to the effect of, "At first I thought I'd give her a jump in her step, hurry her along... then I realized I wasn't going to stop, and for the first time I was making the right decision."

In many ways I agree about the plot as well. It was a serviceable framework for the vastly more interesting character development you point out. It was also at times, I might suggest, an interesting way to influence that development.

Apparently this is the fourth in a series of six 'moral tales' from Rohmer. I wonder, do the characters recur? Having become somewhat invested in Adrien and Daniel, I would gladly watch further material involving them. Having written that, however, it occurs to me the significance of Adrien's final scene could possibly be undermined with further exploration. After all, would The Wrestler's finale hold the same gravitas with a finite conclusion? Abre los ojos'? Before Sunrise's?

I also took note of the soft colors. Similar to the employment of nature and architecture, Rohmer seems to allow his settings to be muted with natural greens and tans. His color scheme selection seems more in the costume department than anywhere else - with the Haydée's bright yellow swimsuit or the deep pink outfit worn by the first woman we see Adrien with.

k: I don't know if the previous three moral tales feature these characters, or if the next ones do. I don't think the tales are about the continuity of the characters' stories, but more the situations (that's why they are called moral tales), It seems more fitting for them to be connected by theme.

Oh, I liked the colors very much, everything looked better in the Criterion edition I saw. Such a beautiful transfer, really. The camerawork helped a lot, framing great images of the characters and their surroundings with each shot and the color selection seemed to make everything blend.

Now, morality...

tOoh, morality. Well, that's where my notion of Daniel being the most redeemable character comes in. Adrien and Haydée seemed very similar to me, and neither one was reprehensible but neither were they all that admirable. They toy with one another - of course we see it from Adrien's perspective but I think Haydée was toying enough, herself, as Adrien seems close to realizing at times - and I would even say they use one another. To boil it down to a matter of genders, I don't think Adrien even has that high a respect for women. Perhaps he doesn't have that high a respect for people in general. He does smack of a misanthrope (which only serves to make him that much more relatable in my eyes). Anyway, at least Daniel doesn't mince words and seems to actually know what he wants. Then there's the older gentleman - was he the artifact collector or were he and the collector separate characters? I think the collector was British. Hm. Either way, the man who imparts wisdom of sorts upon Adrien following the shattering of the vase seems redeemable as well, but this may be because we see so little of him and his experience allows him to put Adrien's conflict in a nutshell.

Does the idea of "collecting" do anything for you? I find it moderately interesting and suggestive of the two lead characters, but I'm not sure it holds a particularly profound weight.

kI think the three main characters have their moral issues, especially Daniel and, as you said, Haydée. Daniel with his constant battle against Adrien and Haydée, and Haydée with the compulsion for "collecting". As I see it, the "collecting" was one of the central moral issues of the movie, which has a very obvious character representation, then we got the other collector, Sam, he treated Haydée with care but just to get to his goal: sex. Remember, he almost hit her when she broke the Chinese vase. If they had or hadn't have sex we don't know, we can only assume. He could also be "collecting" just like her.

t: True, true. In my mind they did have sex. Probably plenty of it in the two days Adrien was gone. It could be because we don't learn quite as much about Daniel as we do Adrien, but I didn't get the sense Daniel was "collecting". Sam's would-be violent actions seem to parallel Adrien's in a more obvious manner - Haydée was doomed to be hurt no matter which man she went with... it was just a matter of how. But then, none of that probably matters to her.

Another thought occurs to me... Haydée probably wasn't too broken up about Adrien leaving her with those two blokes. They were on their way to a party... more partners to collect there, not to mention the blokes themselves. These notions seem telling of the fact that Rohmer managed rather slyly to put me smack in Adrien's brain, assuming the worst of his target femme while still being drawn to her... almost out of obligation to his libido? I don't know... that last thought is completely out of left field.

k: Haydée is also an interesting character. She goes around with many men but, does she really feel any attachment to them? For a moment I thought she did with Daniel and Adrien, she seemed to care. Maybe for a moment she found some real affection which may be what she was looking for, but then near the end she just walks off again, looks like she couldn't go against her nature.

I think Adrien finally realizes is futile to go on with Haydée at the moment she goes to talk with the two guys, then he is left alone and decides to go back to the one person that loves him, whom he was "cheating on" during his vacations.

t: I'm not sure I have anything further to add - you shed light on good points, all of which I am in line with. I would say, overall, we seem to have had a very similar experience with La collectionneuse. Unless you have anything further, on to Le genou de Claire?

k: Perfect, my friend.

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