The Films (3.5/5, 4/5, 4/5)
During the first half of this year Redemption Films has accomplished an absolute feat in the market of home video releasing by clearing the rights for, and releasing the early films of Alain Robbe-Grillet and allowing them to make their North American home video debuts. These Robbe-Grillet releases started in January with the pairing of his classics Trans-Europ Express and Successive Slidings of Pleasure, and followed up in March with his debut film L'immortelle. They are now concluding this series of releases with 3 more Robbe-Grillet films over 2 releases with Eden and After, the alternative version of that film N. Took the Dice, and the Jean-Louis Trintignant (Three Colors Red, Amour) starring The Man Who Lies.
Prior to these releases I had not had the pleasure of experiencing the cinema of Robbe-Grillet firsthand. His work has always been alluded to in cult cinema circles, but has been difficult to acquire until recent months in Region 1/A territory. The only film I viewed that I can associate with his work would be the Alain Resnais directed, Robbe-Grillet scripted pre-French New Wave masterpiece Last Year at Marienbad.
Watching the films of Robbe-Grillet is not to simply view a film, but it is to experience a film. He is a artist all too aware of his canvas, and uses that awareness to break with typical film formalities such as traditional narrative. In that way he uses images more that dialogue to convey his story. This is most obvious in Eden and After/N. Took the Dice, which feels like the cinematic equivalent of a William S. Burroughs cut up era book (Soft Machine, The Ticket that Exploded).
Eden and After stars Catherine Jourdan as Violette a young woman who along with her college peers waste away their time in a nightclub called Eden. A stranger approaches them one day and offers them a way to escape their boredom, but when they go to meet him at a factory that night he is dead. Violette finds a postcard on his person with some Middle Eastern imagery, and takes off to that corner in the world.
Eden and After feels like a film in 3 parts,the Eden sequences, the factory, and the Middle Eastern portion for the final third. The film is not straight forward in the slightest. What plot there is seems to be conveyed by Robbe-Grillet's powerful use of imagery, some of which like a white room full of naked women in cages appears to be completely dissociated from the plot at hand, and helps to give the film more of a hallucinatory atmosphere.
We then have an alternative version of the film made by Robbe-Grillet the next year for French television called N. Took the Dice. Many would simply mistake this film as a simple experiment in film editing, and nothing more. That, however, would be a mistake on the part of the viewer. N. Took the Dice uses an alternate chronological structure, different takes, to create something that uses the viewers prior knowledge of Eden and After to create a more profound and deeper viewing experience.
The film which felt like 3 separate sections in the earlier version, now feels like a more cohesive whole with the 3 sections flowing more seamlessly into each other , and do so much more naturally. I would suggest that if any viewer has any issue with the structure and atmosphere of Eden and After to hold off judgment on the film until after they have viewed N. Took the Dice, because they work better together as a whole, then as separate pieces, and the latter helps to deepen the already strong imagery of the former.
We then come to the Man Who Lies. The Man Who Lies is another of Robbe-Grillet's collaborations with the French cinematic tour de force actor Jean-Louis Trintignant. The Man Who Lies is another narrative style experiment from Robbe-Grillet. In their prior collaboration 1967's Trans-Europ Express, the pair experimented with narrative by toying around with the notion of a film being created during a discussion by the writers. The Man Who Lies on the other hand centers itself on the notion of truth in characterization. We know from the films opening minutes that the man played by Trintignant is not who we perceive him to be, so immediately anything that comes out of his mouth may or may not be truth, and we have to discern the reality of his existence.
The film tells the story of a man played by Trintignant who is allegedly a soldier in a war who comes back to a town to break the news of the death of one of his fellow soldiers, in the process he tries to bed other members of his comrades household including his wife. The film is in line with Robbe-Grillet's work is quite beautiful to look at, and he uses his Czech locales to create a wonderful sense of scenery and atmosphere.
Both films are presented in their OAR's and look magnificent. Of all the restoration work Redemption has completed thus far, their work on the Robbe-Grillet work has been the best. Both transfer look quite natural in keeping with their standards, offer great fine detail, excellent color in the case of Eden and After/N. Took the dice and excellent contrast in the case of The Man Who Lies.
The audio is similarly well restored with dialogue, score, and effects coming through nice and clearly. I did not detect any issues with the audio whatsoever.
Redemption Films in keeping with their prior Robbe-Grillet editions have included 30+ minute long interviews with Robbe-Grillet on each disc. We also get trailers for other Redemption Robbe-Grillet titles, and a promo teaser for the series.
The films of Alain Robbe-Grillet are not for everyone. However, for the adventurous enthusiast of EuroCult cinema his films are a must. The A/V Restorations from Redemption are beautiful, and the interviews included just push these releases over the top. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.