A great way to “get away” when not travelling is watching foreign flicks. Ever since my local library opened a great “Art” section in the DVD area, I’ve all but written off American films as a choice. Like travelling, watching foreign movies can produce new perspectives, as if physically immersed in another country’s culture and people. But more importantly—the world is full of great movies so that it doesn’t pay to waste time on another Hollywood disappointment.
Sometime ago, Hollywood replaced its talent and creativity with business automatons whose only attempt is to make the most base films that reach the widest audience to achieve the most revenue within the shortest period of time. The problem with this model: “Those who lack imagination cannot imagine what is lacking”.
Like unpleasant reoccurring dreams, about 3-4 regurgitated and tired themes have been rotating through Hollywood’s movie mill. There is the “WWII theme” that has been tirelessly pumped through the mill for the past 70 years, resulting now in completely inane scripts and the most predictable characters who just wear different faces and fight different wars. The automatons unsuccessfully try to make up for their deficiencies with all out assaults on the eyes and ears from overwhelming and mind-numbing crash-and-burn scenes, crammed with as many special effects as technically possible, and overlapped with exasperating scripted screams.
On the other hand, foreign films can be surprisingly refreshing in story, character and scene, essential elements for those who travel abroad. It’s just more interesting to see the world through another perspective.
This is why I like films like Eric Rohmer’s “La Collectionneuse” (“The Collector”), a great escape from the Hollywood paradigm. Filmed in and around a 17-Century villa in Saint-Tropez, located on the French Riviera, in June 1966, the film is more like a “comatoser” than a sleeper. According to the director, it was shown only in one theater, but was so popular, that the Paris theater ran it for six months. The Hollywood automatons would have a difficult time trying to make sense out of this!
In short, the plot is of a man who chases a woman but does not want to fully commit spending his summer with her in London. While temporarily renting a villa in the Riviera with two bohemians, he is tempted by another woman. In the end, he realizes he wants the first girl after becoming anxious of being alone in an empty villa with no distractions.
But there is so much more to this film than a plot. Throughout the film, the main character introspectively ponders over morality, people’s motives and whether most exercise free choice or are just simply controlled by circumstances. Interlaced with these musings are mesmerizing philosophical discussions from unusual characters in their rich colloquial that seems to only be encapsulated in time and place that seemed to be so special about the 60s, when the world’s axis seemed to momentarily shift open to infinite possibilities.
Surrounding these stimulating exchanges are magnificently beautiful sceneries reserved seemingly only for the unusual. Vibrant blues, greens and yellows pour out of each scene–more than any Hollywood overly dubbed and artificially colored set scene could possibly achieve. Less is more in this case. The director uses the most powerful elements of nature and creative use of cinematography.
And there are the hypnotic countryside sounds that elevate what is being portrayed beyond film. Opposite Hollywood movies that come with that incessant and obnoxious music and artificially placed sounds that fill every crevice.
Because the film was done on a shoe-string budget, each scene was filmed in one take. But you wouldn’t know that. The dialogue is so fresh and spontaneous. This is probably due to the fact that the actors wrote most of their own dialogue while following the essential story of the director. Rohmer wanted each actor to speak in his or her own words and what follows is some very fresh and interesting discussions as the actors muse over life and people.
“La Collectionneuse” is one of “six Moral Tales” Rohmer directed through the 60s and early 70s. I saw “Claire’s Knee” (1970), which was also very good and also filmed in an interesting and beautiful location in France. You can watch “La Collectionneuse” on youtube but is not near the quality of the newly restored high-definition digital transfer that was supervised and approved by Rohmer, which produces rich and vibrant colors.
To see more screen captures, go to La Collectionneuse Gallery.