Limitless Cinema in Broken English

February 21, 2008


Filed under: Uncategorized — celinejulie @ 12:32 am

I’m very sad to know about the death of Alain Robbe-Grillet (1922-2008).

Some new and old links:

English links:

Mubarak Ali’s blog:

GreenCine Daily:

Obituary written by John Sturrock in THE INDEPENDENT:

Jesse’s review on LA BELLE CAPTIVE:

A quote from John Sturrock:

Alain Robbe-Grillet interviewed by Tom Bishop:

Thai links:

Filmsick’s review on EDEN AND AFTER:

Some images from Robbe-Grillet’s films:

–I wrote about my feelings for LA BELLE CAPTIVE last year.

There is something I didn’t write at that time—comparing my feelings for LA BELLE CAPTIVE and PLOY (2007, Pen-ek Ratanaruang, A+), because I didn’t want to spoil the endings of these two films. But I guess many people have seen these two films already. So now I’m gonna write about my feelings for them.

I saw PLOY and LA BELLE CAPTIVE nearly at the same time, maybe within one month from each other. So I couldn’t help comparing these two very different films. In these two films, dreams, imagination and reality can’t be distinguished from one another. I think the structures of these two films have something in common—they seem to consist of dream within dream within dream, or in case of LA BELLE CAPTIVE—nightmare within nightmare within nightmare. However, though I love PLOY very much, I have to say that there is something I don’t like in PLOY, but that thing is not to be found in LA BELLE CAPTIVE.

After PLOY starts for about 30 minutes, there is something very bad happening in the film, then it is revealed that that evil thing is just a nightmare of a character. Then the story progresses. Some bad things happen. But the film seems to end with the reconciliation of the couple. And somehow I don’t like this kind of ending. I don’t like that the bad thing happening in the first part of the film is just a nightmare. Somehow I don’t like films which present some bad events and then tell the viewers that they are just nightmares and you will wake up to find a better reality.

But in case of LA BELLE CAPTIVE, I like the structure of the film very much. It seems as if a character has a nightmare, then he wakes up and finds himself still in a nightmare, then he wakes up and finds himself still in a nightmare, etc. But in the end he wakes up and finds that THE REALITY IS REALLY MUCH MUCH WORSE THAN ALL HIS PREVIOUS NIGHTMARES. I think this is the kind of a real great ending in my point of view.

–I read RECOLLECTIONS OF THE GOLDEN TRIANGLE (1978) by Alain Robbe-Grillet many years ago. The novel is translated by J. A. Underwood. I like it very much, though I understand nothing in it. There are many times in the novel when I don’t know exactly who is telling the story, what is happening, if it is really happening, if it is just a dream, if it is just a memory, who is dreaming, who is remembering, when the event takes place, where the event takes place, etc. I guess time and places are very fluid both in his films and his novels.

An interesting passage from RECOLLECTIONS OF THE GOLDEN TRIANGLE (from page 102-104):

“And suddenly she cries out in the unending silence, a long-drawn-out, manic cry that she could contain no longer. She says to herself: That’s it! Now I really am mad. I’ve finally succumbed to the darting demons of my adolescence, which have always been lurking in the still-water depths of my green eyes with their shimmering irises. On my identity cared I am Caroline de Saxe by birth, but my real name is Belzebeth, princess of the blood, more often called the bloody princess. I am walking now down the interminable corridor lined with tortures and murders. Even as a child, right at the back of the attic, where the beams came down too low…No, there’s no time for that now! This long black car with its window obscured by thick curtains, its motor ticking over, biding its time, on the grassy road that hugs the dune behind the row of bathing-huts, this I recognize: it’s the ambulance from the mental hospital where in a few minutes I shall be back with the sinister Dr. Morgan and his textual experiments, having once again passed through the black door that has neither number nor key and is surmounted by a vertical eye within a triangle of gold fillets, carved point downwards.

For how long have I today (when?) been shut up on my own in this cubical cell—already inventoried in detail several times—where, in the absence of any opening apart from the armour-plated door leading to the special interrogations and so-called clinical treatments along a narrow corridor that repeatedly bends at right angles in one direction or the other without any regularity, so that one can never manage to keep count of the multiple, inexplicable, unavailing detours…Where had I got to?…”Mistake! Penalty!” announces the cruel voice of the loudspeaker. Then, after a silence, the invisible corrector adds in a more neutral tone: “Go back to: where comma in the absence of any opening…”

…where, in the absence of any opening, it remains impossible to distinguish day from night. A uniform, wan light of which I have not yet managed to detect the source appears to diffuse from all directions simultaneously, reflected by the white walls, the white ceiling, and also by the floor, itself white like everything else with the sole exception of the armour-plated door, painted a very dark grey, beyond which begins the passage that gives access after many right-angled turns, to the series of…”

John Sturrock wrote a great article on Robbe-Grillet in the book THE FRENCH NEW NOVEL. Here is a quote from the book:

“Whenever Robbe-Grillet introduces roads, corridors, staircases and so on, he always does so in this fragmented and deliberately bewildering way. The progress of the narrator who tries to follow them and link them together into a coherent townscape or piece of architecture represents the will to find comfort in a definitive order of things. But the motion which Robbe-Grillet permits is only brief and fragmentary, each section of street, corridor, or the like, being simply the evidence of the mind’s frustration.”



  1. Eeek… I don’t know if my pan (or perhaps more accurately, my thoughts on being disappointed by) La Belle captive is appropriate for a tribute post! Especially since I love Marienbad so, so much and think his contribution to it was just as important/essential as Resnais’s–which is really saying something. Ah well, this news of his passing saddened me as well, and I think it’s time that I pull out that other novel of his that I’ve had sitting on my shelf for a few years and finally give it a look…


    Comment by jataide — February 23, 2008 @ 1:28 am

  2. –Jesse, I think that your review on LA BELLE CAPTIVE is useful in way. I think at least it is a warning that anyone who has never watched any films by Robbe-Grillet should start with other films beside LA BELLE CAPTIVE. 🙂

    Though I give LA BELLE CAPTIVE “A+”, I am also a little bit disappointed with it. But for me, I’m disappointed with it only when I compare it to other films by Robbe-Grillet, not when I compare it with films by other directors.

    –At first I was also disappointed after I had finished reading RECOLLECTIONS OF THE GOLDEN TRIANGLE. But the disappointment rapidly turned into a new kind of pleasure. I read this novel when I didn’t know much about Robbe-Grillet’s styles. So when I was reading it, I expected that all the mysteries or puzzles would be solved in the end. I expected that I would understand everything in the final chapter of the book. But I found nothing like that in the end.
    No mysteries are solved. The novel seems to end with no conclusion. At first I felt disappointed. Then I realized that is Robbe-Grillet’s intention. My disappointment was not the result of Robbe-Grillet’s writing. It was the result of my wrong expectations. Robbe-Grillet’s novel changed me and changed my expectation when I read a book or watch a film.

    Speaking of a novel with unsolved mysteries and without conclusion, I just remember that I once saw a short documentary interviewing Robbe-Grillet about his opinion on Michelangelo Antonioni. Robbe-Grillet seems to like Antonioni very much. It is not surprising. Antonioni created a new way of making films by directing L’AVVENTURA, a film with an unsolved mystery. Robbe-Grillet’s films and novels also show evidently the love of unsolved mysteries.

    –Speaking of LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD, I would like to add some information about this film here:

    1.Dan Sallitt wrote about how to win the game in LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD in his blog:

    2.Lynn A. Higgins wrote a great article on LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD in her book called NEW NOVEL, NEW WAVE, NEW POLITICS: FICTION AND THE REPRESENTATION OF HISTORY IN POSTWAR FRANCE (1998). Her article gave me a new thought on LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD. She wrote about the rape which is in the story of the film, but is not shown directly in the film.

    This is a quote from the book:

    “Missing links, ironic reversals, and displacements to an “elsewhere” are the rhetorical strategies that keep the rape in MARIENBAD from being immediately apparent. For X they serve the functions of an alibi in its etymological sense: he desperately and repeatedly turns the discussion to a “formerly” and an “elsewhere”—last year, perhaps in Frederiksbad or Baden-Salsa. He also emplots the description of what happened (or is happening) in the mode of a love story. To the extent that his voice is the film’s (as in his opening question, “Are you coming?”, and his injunctions to “Follow me, please”, ostensibly addressed to A but encompassing the spectators), the fact that many stories are possible works to his advantage. But the film also works against him: his love story is full of holes, through which peek fragments of another tale that is its mirror opposite. In this light, MARIENBAD is the scene of a conflict or tug of war between its protagonist, who wants to turn the viewer’s attention to another time, place, and story, and the film medium, which shows the here and now. Rape in MARIENBAD is neither remembered nor forgotten. Rather, it is shown. Although it is not described, it is nevertheless inscribed. But as in a screen memory, it is rendered incomprehensible because it is fragmented and scattered about the film in inconsequential details, leaving a hole in the center.”

    Comment by celinejulie — February 25, 2008 @ 8:44 pm

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