The success of Paris vu par… (1965) allowed Les Films du Losange to make La collectionneuse (1967). Eric Rohmer and Barbet Schroeder produced it, shooting in June 1966, with post-production paid for by Georges de Beauregard. (1) Two reasons explain the decision to make La collectionneuse, number four of the ‘Six contes moraux’ (‘Six Moral Tales), before Ma nuit chez Maud (My Night at Maud’s, 1969), number three. First, Rohmer was waiting for Jean-Louis Trintignant to be available for a winter shoot on location in Clermont-Ferrand. Second, Schroeder, who acted as producer and all-round assistant on La collectionneuse, says that although they wanted to do My Night at Maud’s first, they could not raise enough money, so they did La collectionneuse first. (2) They gambled that being in colour and set in the south of France, La collectionneuse would be more successful than My Night at Maud’s and would allow Rohmer to make My Night at Maud’s in black and white. (3) They made La collectionneuse cheaply, renting a house in the south of France, which cast and crew lived in and used as the main location. (4) Rohmer and Schroeder produced La collectionneuse in the same way that they had produced the first two contes moraux: they scraped together just enough money for the shoot. With the film stuck in the laboratory, they then tried to raise money to pay for post-production; it remained as a black-and-white silent work print for a year. They showed this rough cut to de Beauregard and he paid for the colour printing and the sound recording. (5) La collectionneuse was successful, though Rohmer’s first big international success was My Night at Maud’s. (6) The latter film was nominated for a Best Foreign Film Oscar and Best Original Screenplay Oscar and Rohmer’s subsequent two films, Le genou de Claire (Claire’s Knee, 1970) and L’amour l’après-midi (Love in the Afternoon, 1972), episodes five and six of the contes moraux, were distributed by Columbia in the US.
Its success as a feature makes La collectionneuse a milestone for Rohmer. However, it was also the first time that he collaborated with the actors in what would later become his typical method. La collectionneuse carries the credit ‘With the collaboration for the dialogue of Patrick Bauchau, Haydée Politoff and Daniel Pommereulle’, and Rohmer explains:
La collectionneuse was based on a story I wrote a long time ago, before 1950. It was very old. The only thing I kept was the structure, and in particular the bit about the Chinese vase. I changed the characters completely. In the film, they were based on the actors portraying them. I used the actors I had to hand. They were Barbet Schroeder’s friends, and I found their personalities really interesting, both the two men and Haydée, and I thought I could fit them into the story. I had the story but I had to modify it to include them. One character was difficult to modify, the narrator, Patrick Bauchau. That’s why his character was completely my creation and likewise his dialogue was written by me. He had little input on dialogue and insisted on keeping the character’s name, which in the story was Adrien. Whereas Daniel Pommereulle’s character was much less defined, so the character in the film could become Daniel Pommereulle. His dialogue about painting, about women, are his own words. I found his statements interesting so I said ‘let’s keep them’. It was true cinéma vérité. (7)
However, Rohmer stresses that they rehearsed before shooting: ‘the film was very carefully planned and in no way improvised. I wrote the dialogue myself with the actors, sometimes only the evening or the morning before we shot the scene. But the fact remains that the dialogue was written’. (8) Patrick Bauchau, who had had a small role in La carrière de Suzanne (Suzanne’s Career, 1963) as Frank, Suzanne’s fiancé, plays the lead role, Adrien, in La collectionneuse, and Daniel Pommereulle, is the other lead male. Pommereulle was an important influence; Rohmer describes him as ‘the spirit of the film’. (9) The director discussed the subject with the actors and recorded these discussions on a tape-recorder, the first time that he used his interview method. (10) Bauchau remembers: ‘I fell into acting just by being around … carrying film cans … talking into Rohmer’s Nagra’. (11) He and the others talked into Rohmer’s tape-recorder in the office of Les Films du Losange, which was still in Schroeder’s mother’s apartment.
Through Schroeder, Rohmer met a group of artists and filmmakers who were more than twenty years younger than him and who have become known as the Zanzibar group, which included Pommereulle, Serge Bard, Philippe Garrel and Pierre Clémenti, and whose films were financed by Sylvina Boissonnas, an heiress who studied art history before becoming a film financier. (12) As Sally Shafto records, a large number of the cast and crew on La collectionneuse were connected to the Zanzibar group, as was Zouzou, with whom Rohmer worked on Love in the Afternoon. Jackie Raynal, who edited La collectionneuse, edited and directed films with the Zanzibar group. (13) Schroeder appears in Serge Bard’s Fun and Games for Everyone (1968). (14) Friends of Schroeder’s, Bauchau’s and Pommereulle’s play smaller roles; for example, the art critic seen in the second prologue, discussing Daniel’s razor-blade sculpture, is Alain Jouffroy, who was a novelist, poet and critic. He worked on the Zanzibar film Détruisez-vous (Serge Bard, 1968) and with Jean-Luc Godard and Garrel. A friend of Bauchau’s, Eugene Archer, plays the art collector, Sam. (15) Haydée’s lover, Charlie, is played by Denis Berry, son of the filmmaker John Berry, who moved to Paris after being blacklisted in Hollywood. (16) In the café scene, filmmaker and artist Donald Cammell plays a man in a white jumper who embraces Haydée. (17)
Rohmer filmed a group of people that he had access to and who could represent young people in the late 1960s in France; he used them to explore contemporary society. Shafto calls it a pre-1968 film, ‘a prophetic film of the period’ (18), partly because several of the people who worked on or who appear in La collectionneuse were involved in the May 1968 demonstrations – Schroeder, Raynal, Berry, Zouzou, Pommereulle, Jouffroy. Yet the film also represents their worldview; in Pommereulle’s case, it represents his frustration with the art market and its conventions. For Shafto, ‘if the Rohmer film does not exactly fall under the Zanzibar heading, it is nevertheless very close’. (19) However, there was some tension between Rohmer’s agenda and Pommereulle’s; Bauchau recalls, ‘I felt he had taken our material and turned it into a Rohmer thing. Daniel, too, felt he made fun of us. But I was arrogant. It was a movie in which I didn’t have to bow down to anyone else’s standards. I should’ve been more pleased’. (20) What becomes a key part of Rohmer’s creative process first achieves success in long-form fiction in La collectionneuse: he absorbed material from people whom he observed and with whom he conversed; he then wrote roles that were close to their roles in life. He combined his research with his story of male desire and hypocrisy. After the failures of Les petites filles modèles (1952) and Le signe du lion (The Sign of Leo, 1959), La collectionneuse is the first time that Rohmer achieves a sustained portrait of a group of people and a milieu, which he merges with a story (born of influences from Murnau and Hitchcock) that is all his own.
Rohmer had begun to explore Hitchcockian themes of male voyeurism, desire and hypocrisy on La boulangère de Monceau (The Bakery Girl of Monceau, 1962) but they first find their full expression in La collectionneuse. The opening introduces the theme of voyeurism. The first prologue, a photographic portrait of Haydée walking along a beach in her bikini, invites a desiring gaze and anticipates Adrien’s desire for her; but her pose suggests youthful confidence and her face expresses something unknown and withheld. (21) The subsequent two prologues introduce the theme of dandyism, first with Daniel and then with Adrien, both men who regard themselves as separate from society. Daniel’s prologue, with him and Jouffroy discussing art in Daniel’s studio, establishes the notion of the dandy as artistic rebel, the alienated artist as potential revolutionary. Jouffroy expounds upon the qualities of Pommereulle’s ‘Objet hors saisie’, a paint can with razor blades stuck on to it. (22) The can is painted yellow, with stripes of red, green and blue. Jouffroy cuts his finger on it, yet he admires its perfection; Daniel listens, and takes off his yellow jumper, allowing us to see that his jumper’s yellow matches his yellow tie and the yellow of his ‘Objet’. The yellow paint can with razor blades is as provocative as the artist, who declares ‘I want other people to get cut, not you’. Like the valuable Chinese vase, which Sam buys and which Haydée breaks, Pommereulle’s tin can with razor blades is a work of art; yet it is of a different kind to the vase and of no value for the bourgeois collector, whom Daniel insults. Shafto argues that Jouffroy and Pommereulle’s conversation invites comparisons between the mood of the late 1960s – the film was shot in the summer of 1966 and released in 1967 – and the French Revolution. (23) Jouffroy, Shafto writes, ‘seems here to offer an excuse for violent action’, something he continues in Serge Bard’s Détruisez-vous the following year. Shafto also cites Jouffroy’s last comment to Daniel:
You remind me of elegant people in the eighteenth century, who were very concerned with their appearance and the effect they had on others. That was already a creation, the beginning of the Revolution. The distance established by elegance from those who aren’t elegant is crucial. It creates a kind of void around the person, and it’s that void around that person that you create with your objects too. But you could just as well do without your objects. You yourself are the can of paint surrounded by razor blades, as was Saint-Just. Razor blades are words. They could be silence. They could also be elegance, a certain yellow. (24)
The last phrase, ‘a certain yellow’, makes Daniel smile. The yellow of the paint can, Pommereulle’s tie and jumper connect the second and third prologues, the latter of which opens with Adrien in a yellow chair. The patterns in colours are introduced by the colours of the names in the credits; Bauchau is in light blue, Politoff is in light green and Pommereulle is in yellow, all against a royal blue background.
The third prologue establishes Adrien’s pretensions and hints at his limitations. He is a middle-class connoisseur, flirting with art and anarchy, but choosing safety. On holiday, he rises at dawn and exercises; Daniel lies around listening to a record of Tibetan chanting and smoking marijuana. Adrien is too conservative for this; and he is irritated when the young people disturb his sleep. Approaching thirty, he is part dandy aesthete and part conservative middlebrow. Therefore, although the third prologue appears to continue the theme of dandyism, beginning as it does with a discussion of style and beauty, and a portrait of Adrien that could emphasise his similarity to Daniel, it indicates the film’s true concerns: Adrien’s relationship with his girlfriend, Mijanou, and with the woman he meets on holiday, Haydée. (25)
From the opening framing of the women disagreeing about beauty, Rohmer pans to find Adrien contributing: ‘a man may be ugly yet have immense charm’. Adrien, handsome and confident, reclines in his yellow chair, with legs crossed and right arm lifted high on the back of the chair; as he leans back, his long dark hair falls away from his face. He wears a pale blue tie with a pink and white striped shirt and a dark suit. The background is a rose garden of pinks, reds and greens. Adrien has his back to the women and he turns over his shoulder to direct comments at them. A portrait of studied elegance, this framing expresses the character of the man to whom this prologue is dedicated; pan, posture and framing intimate his sense of his own irresistible charm. His hair is less unkempt than Daniel’s, more shaped, a conservative compromise between long (rebellious) and short (conventional, like Trintignant’s in Maud).
In his prologue, Adrien and his girlfriend discuss their separate holidays. His girlfriend is played by Brigitte Bardot’s sister, Mijanou Bardot, who was married to Bauchau. In La collectionneuse, the married pair appear as the epitome of upper-class elegance. A friend from the 1960s recalls them as a couple:
He was urbane, stylish, handsome. But it was his intellect, coupled with grace, that gave him access to film and literary circles, if he wanted, and social circles, too – though he moved without an agenda. He and Mijanou were like Fitzgerald characters … cool, chic. Late-night dinners, afternoons at movies … Chez Castel after midnight … seeing friends in the cafés at twilight. He was the envy of many. All the young men wanted to be Patrick. (26)
Whether accurate or not as a description of Bauchau, it encapsulates Bauchau’s dilettante character, Adrien. The couple’s conversation about holidays develops the film’s key plot line: she is going to London for five weeks for a modelling job. She invites him, but he refuses, saying that he has to meet a collector who might finance his gallery. Not spending their holidays together suggests that they are in a relationship, but not yet at the stage where going on holiday together is automatic. When she walks away from him in the garden, we stay with Adrien as he watches her depart. The last thing he says to her anticipates its reversal at the end of the film. She asks him ‘why don’t you come to London?’ He replies: ‘I already told you, I can’t’. The film will end with him phoning Nice airport to ask about the next flight to London. He has concluded his business, but that business, not admitted by him during the prologue, is the decision he had to make about commitment to his girlfriend, not the dealings with Sam. The rest of the prologue develops the theme of Adrien looking to test his commitment. In the upstairs rooms of Rodolphe’s rich country house, he searches for distraction and finds it, first with two small bronzes of naked women, then, as he has wandered into a bedroom, with a young couple making love. Haydée is lying naked under a young man, whose face is not visible, but whom one assumes is Rodolphe. Haydée sees Adrien, but says nothing. He walks out with a smile on his face and closes the door.
Suspense in Rohmer’s ‘Six Moral Tales’ series derives from the tension between the parts of the films that establish the experiences of the central male character as attractive and involving, and the parts of the films that alert us to the hero’s self-deception. Things that draw us close to Adrien include the voice-over and the amount of time we spend with him. After the prologue, La collectionneuse continues with a pleasurable depiction of a world whose events absorb us. Adrien’s languid behaviour is alluring: we watch him ambling down to the Mediterranean for a morning swim, the light hazy with heat, we listen to him talking in voice-over of his plans for a holiday, hear the cicadas chirping in the trees. Close-ups of rocks and seaweed as Adrien talks invite us to share his viewpoint. (27) The seductive portrayal of an idyllic holiday helps secure our interest in Adrien.
The holiday setting adds a further dimension to the working out of the symbolic drama. Rohmer’s use of the summer holiday shows people in a situation different from their norm; they have escaped from one form of routine, although they may lapse into another form of routine. Holidays are a version of returning to nature, escaping from society and leading a simpler life. Holidays are also one of the few occasions in modern life when nothing urgent presses on us; they allow us to indulge impulsiveness. Rohmer uses holidays as opportunities to dramatise situations where we might try unusual experiences. (28) Rohmer’s characters do not go on package holidays or to Club Med-style resorts; the group holiday produces a different genre – the broad, often slapstick comedy. In Rohmer’s films, holidays take the form of visiting the houses of friends or relatives, as in La collectionneuse, Pauline à la plage (Pauline at the Beach, 1982) and Conte d’été (A Summer’s Tale, 1996). Jérôme (Jean-Claude Brialy) in Claire’s Knee visits his family’s holiday home on Lake Annecy, though he does so to sell it off. Delphine (Marie Rivière) in Le rayon vert (The Green Ray, UK; Summer, USA; 1986) visits friends and their apartments, but she knows neither Cherbourg nor Biarritz well. Of the characters in Rohmer’s five holiday films, Marion (Arielle Dombasle) in Pauline at the Beach and Jérôme in Claire’s Knee know Jullouville and Annecy well; the rest are strangers to the places in which they stay.
La collectionneuse combines its seductive portrayal of a holiday environment with stylistic and thematic patterns that communicate attitudes towards and evaluations of the hero’s feelings and experiences. As the film progresses, we start to realise the extent of Adrien’s self-deceit. (29) Things that distance us from Adrien’s posturing include the organisation of dialogue, framing, colours, costumes and comportment, all of which warn us of the contradiction between Adrien’s words and actions; for Adrien denies his attraction to Haydée and she is right to call him a hypocrite – he is a bad faith egotist. He tells Daniel, ‘If I find a book, say Rousseau, I’ll read Rousseau, but I could just as well read Don Quixote. If a pretty girl fell into my arms, I’d take her, though at the moment I have no desire to get involved’. A close-up of Daniel signals Rohmer’s attention to Daniel’s prescient reply: ‘What if Haydée crawled into your bed?’, while the references to Rousseau and Don Quixote offer clues to Rohmer’s intentions about the self-deceiving egotists which comprise the heroes of the ‘Six Moral Tales’. (30)
Particular moments claim attention; for example, during the first sequence of Adrien swimming, an amusing shot shows him standing in front of the sea with his shirt off and his hands on his hips, like a giant surveying his territory. There is a similar humour in the presentation of Adrien’s hand holding out Rousseau’s complete works. Costumes emphasise contemporary fashion and the traditional dandy, but Adrien’s outfits are sometimes absurd. He wears a pink and white dressing gown, as George Sanders would have worn a velvet smoking jacket, but his is so small on him that his arms poke out from its sleeves. One of the most important shots in the film marshals framing, posture and costume. After Daniel and Adrien tell Charlie to leave, Adrien’s commentary states: ‘a newly docile Haydée brought no more guests to the house’. The following scene, filmed in one shot, emphasises Adrien’s sense of superiority. (31) He reclines on the terrace wall in black trousers, espadrilles and with his tanned torso exposed by an open blue shirt, leaning back on one elbow, one leg down, the other up and bent, hair swept over his head, blowing smoke into the dusky air. The double doors that open onto the terrace frame him; the low sun casts shadows behind him. (32) In the foreground are the red hexagonal ceramic tiles of the summer villa; in the middle, on the threshold, sits Haydée, using the telephone; in front of her are a blue and white striped deck chair, an iron table with remnants of a meal and Adrien, who watches her on the phone as he smokes, teasing her with ‘Yak, yak’. This shot conveys Adrien’s attitude to Haydée and it is the first of a pair, for the film closes with an ironic reprisal of this framing when he phones the airport to book a flight to London.
This scene, with others, expresses Adrien’s arrogance towards Haydée, for whom he thinks he is irresistible. In a quiet spot in the woods, he tells her ‘I don’t like you running after me’, and then ‘You’re too attractive. We both carry the same cross’. Later, Adrien calls her ‘une collectionneuse’ but she replies ‘I’m not a collector’, saying: ‘You make no sense. You criticise me for taking anything but you brag about doing it yourself’. His confidence allows him to ignore her rejections of him. Adrien may call Haydée the collector of the title, but she rejects this appellation. (33) When she confronts Adrien at the end, she says ‘I wouldn’t want your morals’. Earlier she states that she wants ‘to have normal relationships with people. Somehow I always mess things up’. Adrien treats her as a plaything, but she retains her dignity while he loses his.
Adrien accuses Haydée of being a collector, like Sam, and the film uses the two vases to express the ambiguity of their relationship and to bring to the fore Haydée’s rebellion against the men who treat her as an object, to be exchanged like a precious antique. (34) In a film in which there are two vases, one of which is an expensive tenth-century Song vase, which Haydée breaks, what happens to the other vase is noteworthy. Adrien gives the Japanese vase to her because he thinks it worthless; she uses it to put flowers in. Her use of the vase offers a clue about her attraction to Adrien. Whereas Sam buys the Song vase and displays it as a valuable object, Haydée uses the worthless vase for flowers. Rohmer shows Haydée’s use of the vase in the important scene, following Daniel’s departure, when Adrien comes into Haydée’s bedroom to persuade her to spend the night at Sam’s villa. As Adrien explains that ‘in business one has to create a certain climate’, the camera follows him around the room, first as he approaches the window, then as he sits on her chair, placed between her bed and a small corner table. The vase remains visible throughout this shot, first on the left of the frame, then on the right. Haydée reacts to Adrien’s proposal by recalling his description of the vase he gave to her. He had told her that he got her vase as a ‘bonus’ with the Song vase; now she tells him, ‘so, I’m the bonus for the vase’, the sweetener for the deal. Not just the vase, he replies; Sam is a potential investor in his art gallery. Finding herself in a Jamesian situation, a flicker of disappointment crosses Haydée’s eyes, though she agrees to play along.
Besides the symbolism of the two vases, Rousseau figures as a further indication of Rohmer’s purpose. Within La collectionneuse, the mention of Rousseau functions as an allusion to the notion that society corrupts a more natural freedom of expression, though it is no more than an allusion. (35) Haydée lives according to this ideal; Adrien reads about it. On holiday, he thinks he is living in a natural spontaneous idyll, but he is more like Don Quixote, whom he mentions as an alternative to Rousseau. Haydée is free and liberated, her destiny in her own hands. Adrien, with his little car, believes he is free and independent, but he clings to convention. He believes he can sleep with Haydée whenever he wants, but he does not consider that she may be withholding herself from him because she mistrusts him until the end, after she breaks the vase. Adrien tells Mijanou that his business is the Chinese vase; but Haydée breaks this and, in laughing about it, severs the link between propriety and economic value; she cares little about the financial worth of the vase. Spurred on by her freedom, Adrien acts, but her subsequent spontaneity (stopping to talk to her friends) terrifies him. The result is a hasty flight back to conformity, London and Mijanou.
The build-up to the breaking of the vase begins when Daniel leaves. The boredom of the holiday asserts itself in Daniel’s irritation when he kicks his foot against the floor as he stares at himself in the mirror. His aim appears to be to annoy Haydée. (36) She tells him to stop, but he continues. Daniel’s tirade against her is vicious, though she appears unmoved by his insults. He leaves the next day, after insulting Sam, saying, ‘I’m fed up with these phoney nonconformists’. (37) After the angry departure of the artistic dandy, the true revolutionary, the bourgeois art collector replaces him in the triangle formed with Adrien and Haydée; from that moment on, the pleasurable holiday liberty disintegrates into boredom and drunkenness. Adrien is the middleman between artist and collector: when the artist leaves, our distance from Adrien grows. Daniel represents a spirited rebellion but he is replaced by Sam, whom Eugene Archer plays like the ‘old villain’ Adrien calls him, ready to seduce a young woman with trips on his yacht and visits to the casino.
After leaving Haydée at Sam’s, Adrien regrets it and admits ‘for the first time since I’d arrived, I was bored’, his boredom expressed by the repeated shots of attractive young women he watches in town. En route to Sam’s house, he takes out his annoyance on a lost tourist. That evening, holiday excitement degenerates into bleary-eyed drunkenness; the mood turns aggressive. Sam accuses Adrien of justifying himself, which he does, in hollow assertions: ‘I’ve always been sorry that I wasn’t rich. But if I were, my dandyism, as you call it, would be too easy, lacking any heroism whatsoever, and I can’t imagine a dandy not being heroic’. After this speech, Haydée breaks the vase and Sam slaps her, though we judge her breaking of the vase to be just, given that he was chasing her and touching her legs and bottom.
When Adrien and Haydée talk and kiss in the bathroom, where she attends to her slapped mouth, La collectionneuse hints at a genuine feeling of warmth and attraction between the couple. To reinforce this, Rohmer proffers three views of the enigmatic Haydée, one from behind and two in the mirror. As they kiss, and she suggests they return home, Adrien may judge he has been successful in seducing her; what she thinks is unknown, but her physical tenderness with him indicates some kind of rapprochement: she touches and looks at him as if she desires him. Unfortunately, he is still in denial about her; he sees her as someone he can have a fling with before returning to Mijanou; his commentary states, with astonishing egotism, ‘an affair so totally circumscribed in time and space met my definition of total adventure’. A chance meeting with her young friends saves Haydée; the road is blocked and he drives away from her, feeling pleased with himself for making the ‘right decision’. When he abandons her without a word, having been about to sleep with her, the difference between Adrien’s self-regard and the film’s presentation of him promotes our condemnation of him as selfish and self-deceiving. His voice-over declares, ‘I was overwhelmed by a feeling of exquisite freedom. Now I could do whatever I wanted’. However, once back in the house alone he cannot sleep; he claims a desire for independence, but craves company. When he goes into her bedroom, takes a cigarette and looks at her clothes, we start to think of him as both cruel and idiotic to abandon Haydée. Two empty iron chairs on the terrace recall the missing friends, who were there at the start of the three weeks, when it was fun. Adrien declares his longing to live apart from society, but once achieved he cannot sustain it. He sits on the threshold by the double doors and does what Haydée earlier did, using the telephone to organise his social and personal life.
La collectionneuse offers a fascinating portrait of an era and a sensibility; Rohmer is as interested in what the dandies of ’68 are saying as he is interested in how these young people talk, behave and interact with each other. The tangled links between intellect and emotions fascinate Rohmer, as much as the counter-cultural atmosphere of holiday dandyism. Yet if La collectionneuse is Rohmer’s first artistic and commercial success, it is worth noting the hardness of the film’s judgement of Adrien. Exposing Adrien’s hypocrisy ensures we care less for him than for Haydée; but the film focuses far less on her; she remains something of an enigma. In effect, this is a structural flaw that afflicts all of Rohmer’s contes moraux, something which his ‘Comédies et proverbes’ (‘Comedies and Proverbs’, 1980-87) and ‘Contes des quatre saisons’ (‘Tales of the Four Seasons, 1990-1998) rectify by abandoning the voice-over and by focusing on the experiences and viewpoints of female characters.
- The film is set in high summer, though Rohmer shot the film in June; as he says, ‘the Midi makes it seem torrid’ (Claude Beylie and Alain Carbonnier,‘Le celluloïd et la pierre’, L’Avant-Scène du cinéma 336 (January 1985): 8
- Elliot Stein, ‘Planetary Fantasies: Barbet Schroeder Interviewed’, Film Comment 13:1 (1977): 53
- Gérard Langlois, ‘Entretien avec Eric Rohmer: De la “conversation” cinématographique’ Les lettres françaises (23 June, 1969). [BFI Microfiche; no page numbers]
- Rohmer says they bought 3,000 metres of film stock (François Ramasse and Louis Danvers, ‘Rohmer: Tous contes faits’ Visions 5 (15 January 1983): 7). 3,000 metres is 9,843 feet of film and a 35mm sound speed of 24 frames per second means that 90 feet equals one minute, with a 1,000 feet film magazine giving just less than ten minutes. This would mean that for the 90 minutes duration of La collectionneuse, Rohmer and Almendros had only eight minutes more film than they needed; they were almost limited to one take for each shot. Almendros recalls a figure of 5,000 metres, that is one and a half times what they needed (Jacques Fieschi, Renaud Bezombes and Philippe Carcassonne, ‘Entretien avec Nestor Almendros’, Cinématographe 44 (February 1979): 39). In either case, it is unusual to use such a small amount of film stock. Almendros, whose first feature film it was, persuaded Rohmer to shoot on 35mm film. Rohmer says: ‘I briefly intended to film La collectionneuse in 16mm, but Nestor advised against it and convinced me that Eastmancolor was much better and not much more expensive’ (Pascal Bonitzer, Jean-Louis Comolli, Serge Daney and Jean Narboni, ‘A New Conversation with Eric Rohmer’, in My Night at Maud’s, Eric Rohmer, director, English Showalter (ed.) New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1993, p. 117. First published as ‘Nouvel Entretien avec Eric Rohmer’, Cahiers du cinéma 219 (April 1970): 46-55). Almendros recalls, ‘in this sense Rohmer is like Buñuel, who conceived each scene in only one way, having given it a great deal of thought beforehand’, and furthermore observes, ‘rigorous preparation and minimizing the use of resources and energy appeal to his [Rohmer’s] ecological principles’ (Nestor Almendros, A Man with a Camera, London: Faber and Faber, 1985. p.56, 57). Almendros also notes that they used a noisy Éclair 35mm camera and all the film’s sound was post-synchronised (Fieschi et al, ‘Entretien avec Nestor Almendros’, p. 39). Rohmer acknowledges that La collectionneuse is the most pictorial of his films (Eric Rohmer, ‘Les Citations picturales dans les contes moraux et les comédies et proverbes’, in Carole Desbarats Pauline à la plage, Crisnée, Belgium: Éditions Yellow Now, 1990, p. 110). By pictorial, he means pretty, which he knows is a danger for films.
- See the report of Almendros (Fieschi et al, ‘Entretien avec Nestor Almendros’, p. 39). Schroeder confirms this in his 2006 interview with Rohmer, ‘Moral Tales, Moral Issues’, included on La boulangère de Monceau DVD, Criterion.
- The film was premiered at the Berlin film festival in June 1967. Rohmer says: ‘La collectionneuse was a success too, at its level. It only played in one cinema, but it played there for six months and I think it sold about 70,000 tickets, which is remarkable for a film in only one cinema. Audiences loved it. It’s the only film that I’ve made that followed the era’s fashions. Audiences loved the new fashions, the long hair, the blue jeans. Then there was Haydée Politoff, whom audiences adored. Marcel Carné signed her for his next film right after that’ (Eric Rohmer ‘Parlons cinéma [interview by André Labarthe and Harry Fischbach]’, TV Ontario, 1977, included on La collectionneuse DVD, Criterion.) It was released in the UK in 1969 with Adrien’s voice-over in English and the dialogue in French. After the international success of My Night at Maud’s and Claire’s Knee, Pathé released La collectionneuse in New York in April 1971.
- Rohmer, ‘Parlons cinema’
- Rui Nogueira, ‘Eric Rohmer: Choice and Chance, Eric Rohmer Interviewed’, Sight and Sound 40:3 (summer, 1971): 120. First published in French in Cinéma 153, (February 1971): 42-58.
- Gérard Legrand, Hubert Niogret and François Ramasse, ‘Entretien avec Eric Rohmer’ Positif 309 (November 1986): 19. As well as occasional appearances as an actor (he is in Jean-Luc Godard’s Weekend, 1967), Pommereulle wrote and directed two films, one of which, Vite (1969), I have seen and which is a mixture of abstract images and psychedelia, filmed in Morocco. Vite is very different to La collectionneuse, yet it expresses Pommereulle’s dandyesque playfulness, apparent in his comportment in La collectionneuse. For a brief discussion of Vite, see Sally Shafto, Zanzibar: The Zanzibar Films and the Dandies of May 1968, Paris: Editions Paris Expérimental, 2007, pp. 197-198.
- Rohmer describes his method in Vincent Ostria, ‘A L’improviste: Entretien avec Eric Rohmer’ Cinématographe 122 (September 1986): 34; Jérôme Prieur and Sylvie Blum, ‘Du Récit à la scène: entretien avec Eric Rohmer’ Camera/Stylo 4 (September 1983): 60; and Philippe Carcassonne and Jacques Fieschi ‘Entretien avec Eric Rohmer’ Cinématographe 67 (May 1981): 28
- Beverly Walker, ‘Secrets at Play: Patrick Bauchau’ Film Comment 34:4 (July/August 1998): 42
- A potential film to compare with La collectionneuse is Barbet Schroeder’s first feature film as a director, More (1969). More shares with La collectionneuse a number of personnel and some motifs and themes. It was shot by Almendros and co-written by Schroeder, Paul Gégauff and Eugene Archer. The setting of the film is Ibiza and the story concerns an extended holiday taken by young hippies. Like Rohmer’s Six contes moraux, it gives a voice-over commentary to its hero, Stefan (Klaus Grünberg). There is even a Rohmeresque Don Quixote allusion when Stefan pretends to attack a windmill with a long pole. L’Avant-scène du cinéma 98, December 1969, is a special issue dedicated to La collectionneuse and More, the former produced by Schroeder, the latter directed by him.
- Shafto, Zanzibar, 178
- IMDb and the film credits list a number of people in La collectionneuse as extras who also helped as assistants. Hungarian musician Laszlo Benko, from the prog-rock band Omega, worked as an assistant on the film and appears in it; similarly, Patrice de Bailliencourt, who was an assistant, appears in it. Even director of photography Almendros supposedly appears briefly in it, although I have not been able to spot him. Alfred de Graaff, credited as associate producer, appears in it as the lost tourist. The press booklet for the film, held at the BFI library, notes that Rohmer met Haydée Politoff at Paul Gégauff’s apartment.
- Bauchau recalls that during his last years as a student at Oxford he met like-minded people who were interested in the nouvelle vague, including Peter Wollen, Clare Peploe, Ariane Mnouchkine and Ilona Halberstad (Walker, ‘Secrets at Play: Patrick Bauchau’, p. 40). Peter Wollen remembers: ‘I was introduced to film in the first instance by people I knew at Oxford. Most important of all was Patrick Bauchau, who later became a film actor and is now an actor on American television. Although Patrick is Belgian, he used to spend quite a lot of time in Paris and he introduced the Cahiers du cinéma’s love of Hollywood to his friends in Oxford in the late 50s. That is, between 1956 and 1959’ (see Laura Mulvey and Peter Wollen, with Lee Grieveson, ‘From Cinephilia to Film Studies’ in Lee Grieveson and HaiddeeWasson, (eds) Inventing Film Studies, Durham: Duke University Press, 2008, p.221). Eugene Archer was a film critic and journalist for the New York Times from 1960 to 1970. Andrew Sarris thanks Bauchau and Archer in the acknowledgements of his book The American Cinema (1968). Bauchau and Sarris became friends when both attended the Cinémathèque Française in the early 1960s (Walker, ‘Secrets at Play: Patrick Bauchau’, p. 40). When Sarris returned to New York, Bauchau went too and became friends with Eugene Archer. It seems that Archer then moved to Paris in 1965, from where he sent back reports on the Paris film scene for the New York Times. In one report from Paris, Archer reviews new French films, including La collectionneuse, in which he appears (though he does not mention this in his article) and of which he says: ‘this surprisingly commercial moral tale about the long-haired boys and the short-haired girls of St. Tropez, filmed on credit and little else by former Cahiers du cinéma editor Eric Rohmer, was strongly disliked in some quarters for its coldly analytical approach, but its colour photography earned it higher praise than most productions costing ten times as much’ (Eugene Archer, ‘In Paris, Just About Everybody Has a New Film’ New York Times, 30 July 1967, p.76). In addition to appearing in La Collectionneuse, Archer wrote screenplays for Schroeder and Claude Chabrol. He died aged forty-two in 1973.
- See Ewa Rudling, ‘Michel pour mémoire’ Senses of Cinema 50. http://archive.sensesofcinema.com/contents/09/50/michel-fournier-ewa-rudling.html#b3 . Denis Berry later married Jean Seberg and Anna Karina, with whom he made Last Song (1987).
- There are differing opinions on whether Donald Cammell appears in La collectionneuse in the café scene in San Tropez; he was a friend of Bauchau’s and knew members of the Zanzibar group; he had a studio in Paris and according to IMDb he is in La collectionneuse. However, the BFI database contains a note to say that this is not true. Comparing photographs of the young Cammell with the man in the white sweater embracing Haydée leads me to conclude that it is Cammell. The two other men in the scene could be Benko or de Bailliencourt. Richard Brody says that La collectionneuse was part funded by producer Beauregard and part funded by ‘the cinephile heiress Sylvina de Boissonnas’ (Richard Brody, Everything is Cinema: The Working Life of Jean-Luc Godard, London: Faber and Faber, 2008, p. 320). However, he does not give a source for this claim and Boissonnas is not listed in the credits. I have not found any confirmation of his claim.
- Shafto, Zanzibar, 178
- Shafto, Zanzibar, 178
- Walker, ‘Secrets at Play: Patrick Bauchau’, 43
- Colin Crisp suggests that the opening of La collectionneuse ‘dissects’ Haydée, fetishistically examining her body (Colin Crisp, Eric Rohmer: Realist and Moralist, Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1988, p.43). Antoine Thirion analyses Haydée’s prologue, describing her as a ‘mythological creature’ (Antoine Thirion, ‘Les Pauses d’Haydée’ Cahiers du cinéma 588 (March 2004): 27)
- Shafto includes a picture of Pommereulle’s piece in her book on the Zanzibar group (p.32). She notes that Pommereulle exhibited it at the ‘Objectors’ exhibition at the Ranson Gallery (p. 234, note 76).
- Shafto, Zanzibar, 179
- Shafto, Zanzibar, 179
- Raymond Lefevre writes: ‘these three prologues are like the hypotheses of a mathematical formula, or the postulates of a philosophical reflection’ (Raymond Lefevre, ‘La collectionneuse’ Image et son 207 (July 1967): 120)
- The description is Paul Gardner’s, quoted by Walker, ‘Secrets at Play: Patrick Bauchau’, 42
- Fabienne Costa briefly discusses the use of inserts in the early sequence of La collectionneuse when Adrien declares his aims for the summer (Fabienne Costa, ‘Prière d’insérer: L’arbre, le maire et la médiathèque’, in Noël Herpe (ed.) Rohmer et les autres, Rennes: Presses universitaires de Rennes, 2007, 155).
- Several critics have commented upon Rohmer’s holiday settings. Ewa Mazierska writes in detail about Rohmer’s uses of holidays, though she states mistakenly that ‘his favourite season of the year is summer; the vast majority of his films are “Summer Tales”’ (Ewa Mazierska, ‘Road to Authenticity and Stability: Representation of Holidays, Relocation and Movement in the Films of Eric Rohmer’ Tourist Studies: An International Journal 2:3 (December 2002): 223). Although not quite accurate, summer holidays are important to Rohmer’s films. Of his twenty-three feature films, five take place on summer holidays: La collectionneuse, Le genou de Claire, Pauline à la plage, Le rayon vert and Conte d’été. A holiday also features briefly as the setting for the epilogue in Ma nuit chez Maud and the prologue for Conte d’hiver. Tom Milne mentions the importance to La collectionneuse of the ‘airy, inconsequential sensuality of an almost tangibly evoked St Tropez summer’ (Tom Milne, ‘Rohmer’s Siege Perilous’ Sight and Sound 50:3 (summer 1981): 192). Hanna Charney writes of Claire’s Knee: ‘the action of the film is steeped in a holiday atmosphere that leaves aside the normal life of most of the characters and constitutes a temporal stasis after which various professional and amorous relationships will again be resumed with all their obligations and consequences’ (Hanna Charney,‘Eric Rohmer’s Le genou de Claire: Rousseau Revisited?’ Symposium 27:2 (summer 1973):102). Colin Crisp calls the holidays in Rohmer’s films a ‘hole in time’, arguing that Rohmer’s films equate these ‘holes in time’ with all that is ‘negative and unnatural’ (Crisp, Eric Rohmer: Realist and Moralist, p. 69). John Fawell writes: ‘as good as Rohmer is at conveying the leisurely beauty of summer, he is also pretty good at describing its banality. He finds something frightening in the leisure of summer, a tendency towards stagnation and aimlessness. Summer tends to find his typically very reflective characters with too much time on their hands and too many thoughts in their heads’ (John Fawell, ‘Eric Rohmer’s Oppressive Summers’ The French Review 66:5 (April 1993): 777). Robin Buss reports that French seaside settings are culturally and historically specific: ‘already by the 1950s, Antoine Doinel’s longing to see the sea marks him out as an underprivileged child. The privileged majority saw provincial France in August and as tourists’ (Robin Buss, The French Through Their Films. London: B.T. Batsford, 1988, p. 52)
- As Mazierska notes, ‘Adrien in The Collector rejects all efforts and goes to any length to justify the moral superiority of his own, idle holiday, as well as of his idle existence (as he equates life with holiday-making) over other types of vacation and life, arguing that, contrary to popular opinion, idleness is very difficult, while work is easy. The apparent heroism and artistry inscribed in idleness result from the intellectual challenge it poses: it forces one to empty one’s mind and think afresh, to find out what is important in life. Moreover, it purifies people from prejudices and makes them open to events and people’ (Mazierska, ‘Road to Authenticity and Stability’, p. 229).
- Milne notes that in La collectionneuse Rohmer orchestrates a clash between ‘the emotional sterility of the thinking man’s dandyism’, the reference being to Laclos’ Les Liasions dangereuses and the ‘simplicity of instinct’, with its reference to Rousseau’s Emile (Milne, ‘Rohmer’s Siege Perilous’, 192).
- This frame is used on the cover of the Criterion DVD.
- This shot is a good example of Almendros and Rohmer’s wonderful collaboration, for as part of La Collectionneuse’s conjuring up of a holiday atmosphere it is important that the lighting is set so that we can see the outside and the inside at the same time; it conveys something of the relation between inside and outside in a villa like this, where wandering between the two is easy and frequent. The warmth of the holiday permits doors and windows to be left open; the time of the holiday permits long conversations about not much in particular and meandering aperitifs and mealtimes.
- Marion Vidal categorises Haydée as a passive seducer, though she adds that ‘the personality of la collectionneuse (Haydée Politoff) is the most difficult to work out. Nothing allows her to be defined in terms of culture or social allegiance. Is she a courtesan by profession or as a hobby? Full-time or part-time?’ (Marion Vidal, ‘La séductrice et l’élue: les héroïnes rohmériennes’ Positif 300 (February 1986): 49).
- As Heinemann points out, Adrien’s prologue compares Haydée as the third ‘object’ of Adrien’s view with the two bronzes of naked women that he picks up (David Heinemann,‘Vision, volition, ré-vision: le point de vue dans La collectionneuse, Le genou de Claire et Le beau mariage’, in Noël Herpe, (ed.) Rohmer et les autres. Rennes: Presses universitaires de Rennes, 2007, p.74). To this, one could additionally note the connection Rohmer makes between fragmentation and objectification, which links the prologue’s presentation of Haydée’s body with the broken fragments of the Song vase, and the connection between Haydée as an ‘object’ that Sam tries to catch hold of, which recalls Daniel’s Objet hors saisie, a piece of art designed not to be seized or held, especially by art collectors.
- As Charney notes, ‘Adrien reads the complete works of Rousseau and a book on German Romanticism, but these titles only serve to indicate his general frame of mind, as would a certain gesture or setting’ (‘Eric Rohmer’s Le genou de Claire: Rousseau Revisited?’ p. 109). Actually it is Haydée who reads the book on German Romanticism, though it does not detract from Charney’s point.
- Shafto writes: ‘the force, extreme and unexpected, of his response indicates that this noise is but an auditory homologue to his paint can, adorned with razor blades. This sound operates as well in another direction, recalling the guillotine of the Revolution, another augur for the violence of May 68’ (Zanzibar, 180-181).
- Shafto suggests ‘his contempt for the market is also in synch with and premonitory of the attitudes of May 68, when Alain Jouffory called for “the abolition of art”’ (Zanzibar, 180).