I knew of novelist Alain Robbe-Grillet chiefly by virtue of his script for Alain Resnais’ art-house masterpiece LAST YEAR IN MARIENBAD (1961; which I intend to revisit in tribute to the author). Eventually, I became aware of his own films as a director via a thread on “The Latarnia Forums” – which, back then, had intrigued me a great deal and, in fact, was highly pleased to acquire three of them a few months ago. Unfortunately, the prints were incredibly murky – so I kind of lost my enthusiasm and it’s only now, in honor of his passing, that I made a concentrated effort to stick with them!
However, my first encounter with these titles proved a disappointment: as I said, the picture quality left a lot to be desired – but, frankly, so did the film itself! Judging by the celebrated Resnais work, I knew I’d be in for an oblique and possibly multi-layered piece – however, to be honest, I found it made little sense and that it was generally weird for weirdness’ sake! In fact, if I had to compare Robbe-Grillet’s style here with that of contemporaneous film-makers, I’d say this is Godard meets Antonioni meets Jodorowsky!; that, in itself, would sound like a most interesting proposition to some…but, I assure you, the film is a bit of a bore despite plenty of nudity (the writer-director seems to have a thing for sadomasochism, as can also be seen from TRANS-EUROP-EXPRESS ) and a stunning-looking heroine in Catherine Jourdan (sporting cropped blonde hair).
The plot, such as it is, has to do with a group of disaffected students who are shown a way out of their ennui (via a concoction he offers) by a man they meet at a café (the Eden of the title); Jourdan is supposed to have a night-time tryst with him at a factory but, on arriving for the appointment, she is intimidated by some of her fellow students and finds the man dead! Taking a clue from a postcard of an Arabian town found in the stranger’s pocket, Jourdan gets mixed-up in espionage (the MacGuffin in this case being a valuable missing portrait), games of a sexual nature, drug-induced hallucinations and murder; eventually, we come full circle and the story returns to the Eden and the arrival once again of the stranger...
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