English Title: The Collector
Original Title: La collectionneuse
Language: French, English, Italian
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance
Director/Writer: Eric Rohmer
Cinematography: Néstor Almendros
It is truly disheartening to calmly embrace the fact that the aftertaste of watching this film contains a certain degree of disappointment, against my almost irrational desire to love Rohmer’s oeuvre, but I just don’t like THE COLLECTOR, the fourth chapter of Rohmer’s “MORALE TALES” series, the first feature length in the series and his very first color feature too.
Searching inwards, what takes me aback actually is the three protagonists, Adrien (Bauchau), an art dealer, Daniel (Pommereulle), a painter, and Haydée (Politoff), a young girl, the titular “collectionneuse”, none of them is really simpatico enough to deserve viewers’ attentiveness, on top of that, after three rapid prologues introducing those three, the entire film is vexingly hinged on Adrien’s viewpoint with his feel-goodism, and he is the most obnoxious one among them, narcissistic, supercilious and self-centered, ever since he meets Haydée, a stranger who stays with him and Daniel in a villa of their their common friend in Riviera for vacation. The arrival of Haydée disrupts Adrien’s “doing nothing” plan of his holiday, especially when he can smugly occupy the moral high ground to hold her promiscuity in contempt, meanwhile, his resolution of not being one of her “collection” is persistently being challenged by Haydée’s nymphet sensuousness, a typical tug-of-war between moral superiority and libidinous inferiority.
Haydée, sports an ingénue appearance, is in another quandary, as she confesses without usual pretense, she is looking for a normal relationship, but every man she meets only attracts to her sex appeal, obviously she forgets, birds of a feather flock together, if she wants a more meaningful relationship, she should cast her net in a different market of potentials, not those hormone-driven lads. Yet the heart wants what the heart wants, she is too young to realize that, and which is why she enjoys playing the catch-and-release game with Adrien, treats him like another prey, starts the first move then retreats to a blasé niche towards his tentative courtship, as titillating as it can be, sometimes it backfires. As the finale points out, the game-changer sometimes arrives unheraldedly, just a spur of the moment, that’s how frivolous a man’s thoughts are, this is where Rohmer hits the home run, but only if we could be saved from all its prior metaphysical jibberjabber.
Daniel, the third footing of the triangle, is more elusive since mostly he is more of an outsider observing the game standoffishly, until he participates in as a catalyst to meddle with the imbroglio, at one time it seems he would play a more significant counter-part in the contest, but after a tentative attempt, he is whomped and drops out, leaving the room for Sam (Archer), an American art collector whom Adrien is doing business with, to be manipulated for another test of the bottom-line between the gender battle, only it will cost him an expensive Chinese vase from Song Dynasty.
Richly shot under the natural light, after all, as cerebral and insightful as Rohmer’s master stroke is, THE COLLECTOR doesn’t strike the same chord as his two latter films (THE AVIATOR’S WIFE 1981 and PAULINE AT THE BEACH 1983) I’ve previously watched, but it will not discourage me from his works, it is just a little bump on the road, which one should not mind.