A series of elegantly kinky erotic tableaux, strung together by a mock-thriller plot, this may be Alain Robbe-Grillet's most linear and accessible film. Mind you, an 'accessible' Robbe-Grillet is like a 'good' Ben Affleck movie. Strictly a relative term, and allowances have to be made.
The plot (as far as I can discern one) has Philippe Noiret as a corrupt tycoon teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. Desperate to raise a few francs, he decides to fake the kidnapping of his own daughter (Anicee Alvina) and pocket the ransom. He locks the girl up for safe-keeping in a deluxe Art Nouveau brothel, where he himself is a regular client.
In real life, this 'brothel' is the interior of the Palais Garnier - for years the theatre of the Paris Opera. This may be symbolic in some highly obscure way; offscreen voices keep warbling snatches of Il Trovatore. The randy Robbe-Grillet, meanwhile, indulges in all his usual fetishes: torture, lesbianism, necrophilia... One young lady has a 'close personal friendship' with a mastiff hound.
Participating in the fun and games are a young and exceptionally lovely Sylvia Kristel and French soft-porno legend Joelle Coeur. The images are so glacially beautiful, they look like a Helmut Newton photo album sprung to life. Yet are we to take this as a serious avant-garde experiment in the style of Alain Resnais? Or is it just a slice of arty smut? Robbe-Grillet himself seems not to know the answer. Or if he does, he's keeping it well-hidden.
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