Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Glissements progressifs du plaisir (1974)

“There exists a material origin,” says Alain Robbe-Grillet towards the production of his film Glissements progressifs du plaisir (1974). “I was dining with a wealthy man who had produced fairly expensive films and had lost money on them. He knew that I made films that were not very expensive, and he asked if I could make a film for 500,000 francs. I said I could, so we reached an agreement.” (from The Erotic Dream Machine: Interviews with Alain Robbe-Grillet on His films by Anthony N. Fragnola and Roch C. Smith, Southern Illinois Press, Carbondale and Edwardsville, 1992, p. 70.)[Pete Tombs writes, “Eden and After gave a boost to Robbe-Grillet’s reputation as a man who made tastefully kinky movies for the intellectual set. Soon he was approached by the Boublil Brothers, who ran a successful chain of Paris sex cinemas. They agreed to finance his next film, Slow Slidings of Pleasure. (from “Oddball Kinkiness & Intellectual Conceits, The films of Alain Robbe-Grillet” by Pete Tombs, Flesh and Blood, No. 9, ed. Harvey Fenton, FAB Press, 1997, p. 69.)] Robbe-Grillet continues, “The project I had in mind was inspired by Michelet’s The Sorceress, as interpreted by Roland Barthes in his Michelet par lui-meme. That gave me the idea of making the character of the sorceress a young woman who upsets masculine discourse. The sufferings that the masculine order subject her to are described in Michelet’s text with a certain delight. The Sorceress is an ambiguous book. One the one hand, the sorceress is the spirit of revolution, while on the other, she also serves as a sexual object. Those conflictual drives can be discerned in Michelet’s style. I took up that conception in The Progressive Slidings of Pleasure, with the fundamental departure from Michelet that she upsets the masculine order not only with her body but also through her reasoning by which she undercuts the logic of a police investigation. “The third origin of The Progressive Slidings of Pleasure is a structural one: to make a film in which the narration is intercut with punctuation shots that serve to separate the scenes. Little by little, “slippages” occur from the punctuation shots towards the narration, from the narration towards the punctuation shots, and from one scene to another through the intermediary of punctuation. Punctuation shots, whose origins are ‘tailpieces’ in typography and ‘fades’ in film, are gradually integrated into the narration. There is a structural slippage from punctuation shots towards the diegesis. The structural idea was, in short, this concept of slippage.” (from Erotic Dream Machine, p. 70.) “It was filmed in an inexpensive little studio in Paris. We shot quickly, and then we all rushed to the railroad station…And it worked because I had an excellent rapport with that young girl [Anicée Alvina]. She was quite willing to do virtually anything that was demanded of her. When she was painting her body before pressing it against the wall, she would listen to me, and I would tell her, ‘Okay, a little lower on your belly.’ She carried it out, and one does not have the impression upon seeing the film that she is listening to instructions. Yet she certainly was not a professional actress. She simply handled her body with naturalness. “Catherine [Robbe-Grillet] had seen her in a film called Les Remparts des béguines (The Nun’s Ramparts), where a fifteen-year-old Anicée had a bit part in which she was really not too bad. We were driving through Cognac when Catherine saw a sign announcing the showing of Les Remparts des béguines. She said, ‘That is the girl you are looking for. You should go and see that film.’ I went to see it that evening. We returned to Paris a few days later, I contacted Anicée. Catherine had perceived that she could act without any of the problems that actresses generally have with nudity.” (from Erotic Dream Machine, p. 76.)“I did not pay myself a salary, while in general the filmmaker pays himself well from the outset. I did everything quickly, and I received a large portion of the returns. Since the film did well, my earnings from Slidings were considerable. The only expensive actor was Trintignant, and he played for free. He is like a well-known painter who cannot afford to sell his paintings for a lower price to a friend, so he performed without charge. That is why his name does not appear in the credits. One sees ‘With the participation of,’ and there is no name, only a shot of a smiling Trintignant.” (from Erotic Dream Machine, p. 127.)Glissements progressifs du plaisir is sensual, playful, and kinky. A lot of the intellectual allusions are also infused with eroticism. Robbe-Grillet states that, “Because red is the color of blood in the film, and blue is the color of the sky. [Yves] Klein is obsessed by the sky in his first paintings. But that young girl [Anicée Alvina] does not know Klein. She has fun with the paint, and you must not forget that her interlocutor is a nun, and the question of imprints is an important one in religion. She ends up by giving her a red cloth, saying, ‘Here is Veronica’s veil.’ ¶ For me, it was simply a nod at Klein. All I did was to think that since she looks so comfortable with her body, she could go ahead and do it, and, indeed, she carried it out the very first time. There was only one take of that scene. To make a film for 500,000 francs, one cannot have two takes of any shot.” (from Erotic Dream Machine, p. 75.) This scene that Robbe-Grillet describes defies both adequate description here and upon viewing. Alvina stands nude against the stark white backdrop of her room. At her feet is a basin filled with red paint and with a brush she paints the front of her body. She then presses her body up against the wall in various poses and leaves red imprints, creating a mural. While the scene is informed by Robbe-Grillet’s intellectual nod to Klein, its sensual nature is focal. The scene, like most in Glissements, is a fun game between the prurient and the intellectual.Robbe-Grillet is fond of games as motif and is also fond of playing them with his reader in his fiction and also with his viewer with his films. As in his previous L'éden et après (although in a different manner), Glissements is full of games. Just beyond the opening montage, Trintignant appears as a police inspector investigating a murder. He searches what appears to be one room by opening various doors and even a door in the ceiling. His character does not seem to leave the room, but the room, itself, is being altered. The space is either being manipulated by Alvina’s character or within the frame by Robbe-Grillet or both. The entire narrative of Glissements is both fractured and circular and certainly elliptical.Even if Robbe-Grillet is playing games for the sake of being playful in Glissements, he will hear no complaints from this viewer. After several viewings of Glissements, the imagery is far too seductive to not become weaved in its web. A beautiful film and a personal favorite.

1 comment:

Alex B. said...

I need to see this. I like Trintigniant a lot and enjoyed Trans-Europ-Express.