Eric Rohmer Brian Murphy - Essay

Brian Murphy

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

La Collectionneuse is a very private kind of film—not only in that it is clearly the work of an individual artist (any Bergman or Fellini film is that) but also in that it is about very special, very private problems. The first-person narrator, Adrien,… is a latter-day dandy, a kind of existentialist Oscar Wilde, who wants to achieve an elegant nullity and to talk about it in charming paradoxes reminiscent of Wilde or even the earlier Disraeli. His friend Daniel … is an artist who believes that the most difficult and important thing to achieve is an (existential) void. They are both intellectuals tired of thought, tired of effort, weary of the luxury of work, and impatient for the demanding rigors of idleness….

In an odd way, the girl, Haydée, is already precisely what they want to be: she is 'natural', apparently uncomplicated and without thought….

The relative peculiarity and privacy of the subject and treatment are matched by the film's structure. Although the film has some superb acting of an off-beat sort, imaginative, delicate direction, and beautiful photography, one hardly notices its obvious cinematic qualities. It is more like an intimate novel than (the more public, more theatrical) film. The extensive use of the first-person narrator, for example, is obviously more fictive than cinematic…. Much of what Adrien says is irritatingly sophomoric, and occasionally his problems are merely absurd, not Absurd. But, on the whole, Adrien and the film are engaging—even absorbing. The characters may be bizarre, but they are effectively realised personalities; their problems may be, to say the least, uncommon, but they are argued with wit and rendered with vigour. The conflicts among the three principal characters are, perhaps, tantalizingly obscure and understated, but the girl Haydée is so carefully, if subtly, drawn that one can well sympathise with Adrien's ambivalent feelings about her enigmatic attractiveness. And, moreover, it isn't every day that one can see a film in which a character remarks that work is just an easy way of buying a clear conscience.

Brian Murphy, "'La Collectionneuse'" (© copyright Brian Murphy 1969; reprinted with permission), in Films and Filming, Vol. 15, No. 10, July, 1969, p. 42.