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La Collectioneuse, a film by Eric Rohmer

From:     blp
Category: Films
Date:     09 June 2008
Time:     05:28 PM


Scratch an idler and you find an aspirant aristocrat. Why couldn't I have had family money?, he
wants to know, I'd have used it well, for the noble, difficult purpose of contemplative inaction.
One of two prologues here makes this explicit, with a serious looking person accusing one of the two
long-haired protagonists of yearning after the condition of pre-revolutionary French nobility. Read
a little more into this and it looks like a very subtle critique of France '68: a revolution
undermined by its own languidly sybaritic underpinnings. 

Two pretty, vaguely hippyish men, one an unsuccessful antique dealer, one a painter, hole up in a
friend's Riviera chateau for a late sixties summer. The antique dealer, in VO, talks about his
desire to devote himself to nothingness and is shown observing the patterns made by light on
seawater etc. He sees his friend as a master of inaction. The two sit around in bathrobes on the
ill-kempt lawn discussing it. A girl shows up, younger, pretty, with lots of boyfriends. The first
one stays the night and in the morning the older men tell him he's disturbed their sleep and he
should pop off. 'Might is right', says the narrator to the hangdog expellee as he decamps. The girl
doesn't mind. Obviously, both the elder sages want to fuck her, but it's beneath their dignity to
admit it. The narrator, being the better looking of the two, assumes he's going to be the one. He
adopts a strategy of going on outings with the girl and being rude to her, but is aware of screwing
it up. Being nice to her is beyond either man's capabilities. He asks the friend to take her off his
hands, as if she's pestering him. The friend refuses, saying he's given up going after women
completely, he only goes to bed with the ones who go after him. This works and he goes to bed with
her. It goes on like this. It's the most perfect depiction of the hell of sexuality as vanity. No
outcome is satisfactory. The consummation is not devoutly to be wished, it's pointless, but without
it, there's still no peace. So much for emptiness. Best of all, the narrator's vanity is so
consuming that he never stops lying to himself - about his attraction to the girl, about the heroism
of his lazy inability to  do anything to any purpose. As exposť of the sour egotism and arrogance of
hippie era foppery, it's up there, possibly even slightly superior to Jean Eustache's La Maman et la
Putain. A brilliant clever, beautiful, funny, totally serious film. 

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