Film

'L'Immortelle' (1963)

Look at her looking.


L'Immortelle

Director: Alain Robbe-Grillet
Cast: Francoise Brion, Jacques Doniol-Valcroze
Distributor: Kino Lorber
Rated: Not rated
Year: 1963
USDVD release date: 2014-04-01

L'Immortelle begins as it means to continue: a series of fragmentary, disorienting scenes of a man gazing helplessly upon a fetishized, smiling, mysterious woman in a variety of locations around Istanbul. The opening montage of shots create an imaginary time and space through editing of glances and gestures across obviously disparate moments. The result is dreamlike and obsessive in very sharp, arid black and white. If these first moments don't warn you away, you are helplessly under the movie's spell. The rest of the film expands these scenes without explaining them: a man has a series of frustrating encounters, and evidently a sexual affair, with an elusive woman who might possibly be a spirit. At the very least, she's a Symbol.

This is the first feature to be both written and directed by novelist Alain Robbe-Grillet. He made this around the same time as he scripted Last Year at Marienbad, and the similarities are unavoidable and pleasurable. As the camera glides about, the characters sometimes stand like statues, and we can't be sure if a given scene is happening "now" or merely in the man's memory as he ruefully rifles the past for clues. Often characters look directly into the camera, and an especially startling example comes at the very beginning, when the woman's sudden blink alarms the viewer with the thought that she's alive, not a mere photograph, and that she's been watching us as intently as we've looked at her.

At its most superficial level, this is about Woman the Eternal Enigma (as far as men are concerned). Even this cliché is well handled, nor should the erotic tease be discounted. More substantially, the woman is a symbol or allegory of "the exotic Orient" itself, for she constantly declares that none of this is happening and the postcard shots of Istanbul around them exist only in the imagination of this French visitor. More excitingly, the film explores Robbe-Grillet's themes of memory and illusion in a way that now seems crisp and beautiful, for we're used to narrative teases in deserted streets, even though many critics were bored at the time; even so, they gave it their prestigous Louis Delluc Prize, a fact over which Robbe-Grillet remained astounded.

The actors are the married couple of actress Francoise Brion and director Jacques Doniol-Volcroze, who'd already made several films together. Here the husband appears, as Robbe-Grillet says in an amusing and informative interview, like a block of wood. The late filmmaker speaks candidly and engagingly of the film's flaws and how it was a learning experience for him. This is the first installment of Redemption and Kino's admirable project to make available to Region 1 audiences the output of Robbe-Grillet, which has previously been on video only in Region 2.

8

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

Electronic music is one of the broadest-reaching genres by design, and 2017 highlights that as well as any other year on record. These are the 20 best albums.


20. Vitalic - Voyager (Citizen)

Pascal Arbez-Nicolas (a.k.a. Vitalic) made waves in the French Touch electro-house scene with his 2005 debut, OK Cowboy, which had a hard-hitting maximalist sound, but several albums later, Voyager finds him launching into realms beyond at his own speed. The quirky, wallflower vocals and guitar snippets employed throughout Voyager drop a funk that brings to mind WhoMadeWho or Matthew Dear if they had disco-pop injected between their toes. "Levitation" is as pure a slice of dance floor motivation as theoretically possible, a sci-fi gunfight with a cracking house beat sure to please his oldest fans, yet the album-as-form is equally effective in its more contemplative moments, like when Miss Kitten's vocals bring an ethereal dispassion to "Hans Is Driving" to balance out its somber vocoder or the heartfelt cover of "Don't Leave Me Now" by Supertramp. Voyager may infect you with a futuristic form of Saturday Night Fever, but afterwards, it gives you a hearty dose of aural acetaminophen to break it. - Alan Ranta


Keep reading... Show less
Film

Hitchcock, 'Psycho', and '78/52: Hitchcock's Shower Scene'

Alfred Hitchock and Janet Leigh on the set of Psycho (courtesy of Dogwoof)

"... [Psycho] broke every taboo you could possibly think of, it reinvented the language of film and revolutionised what you could do with a story on a very precise level. It also fundamentally and profoundly changed the ritual of movie going," says 78/52 director, Alexandre O. Philippe.

The title of Alexandre O. Philippe's 78/52: Hitchcock's Shower Scene (2017) denotes the 78 set-ups and the 52 cuts across a full week of shooting for Psycho's (1960) famous shower scene. Known for The People vs. George Lucas (2010), The Life and Times of Paul the Psychic Octopus (2012) and Doc of the Dead (2014), Philippe's exploration of a singular moment is a conversational one, featuring interviews with Walter Murch, Peter Bogdanovich, Guillermo del Toro, Jamie Lee Curtis, Osgood Perkins, Danny Elfman, Eli Roth, Elijah Wood, Bret Easton Ellis, Karyn Kusama, Neil Marshall, Richard Stanley and Marli Renfro, body double for Janet Leigh.

Keep reading... Show less

The Force, which details the Oakland Police Department's recent reform efforts, is best viewed as a complimentary work to prior Black Lives Matter documentaries, such 2017's Whose Streets? and The Blood Is at the Doorstep.

Peter Nicks' documentary The Force examines the Oakland Police Department's recent reform efforts to curb its history of excessive police force and systemic civil rights violations, which have warranted federal government oversight of the Department since 2003. Although it has its imperfections, The Force stands out for its uniquely equitable treatment of law enforcement as a complex organism necessitating difficult incremental changes.

Keep reading... Show less
6

Mary Poppins, Mrs. Gamp, Egyptian deities, a Japanese umbrella spirit, and a supporting cast of hundreds of brollies fill Marion Rankine's lively history.

"What can go up a chimney down but can't go down a chimney up?" Marion Rankine begins her wide-ranging survey of the umbrella and its significance with this riddle. It nicely establishes her theme: just as umbrellas undergo, in the everyday use of them, a transformation, so too looking at this familiar, even forgettable object from multiple perspectives transforms our view of it.

Keep reading... Show less
7
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image