Sunday, May 27, 2007


If there is one thing missing in the DVD of LA BELLE CAPTIVE (1983, Alain Robbe-Grillet, A+), it might be a commentary on the film. And if Robbe-Grillet is not willing to comment on the film himself, I hope Royal S. Brown can comment on the film. I don't know much about Royal S. Brown, but I guess he is an expert on Robbe-Grillet. My friend gave me two articles by Royal S. Brown to read, and they stun me.

The first article is SERIALISM IN ROBBE-GRILLET'S EDEN AND AFTER: THE NARRATIVE AND ITS DOUBLES. In this article, Royal S. Brown analyzes EDEN AND AFTER (1970, Alain Robbe-Grillet, A+) thoroughly and makes a fascinating table to show that EDEN AND AFTER has 12 motifs, and these 12 motifs occur repeatedly as series for at least six times in the film. The twelve motifs are IMAGINATION, PRISON, MALE SEXUAL ORGAN, SPERM, BLOOD, DOORS, LABYRINTH, DOUBLE, WATER, DEATH, DANCE, and PAINTING. For example, the motif MALE SEXUAL ORGAN occurs first in the title sequence as a text "sexual violence", the second time it was represented as a gang rape scene, the third time it was shown as the key in a bizarre game which leads the heroine towards a revolver, the fourth time it was shown as chains & whips which tied Marie-Eve, the fifth time it was shown as tableu of tortures in which women are chained to wheels or to spiked grilles, and the sixth time it was shown as the torture of the heroine by using scorpions.

I don't know which magazine or which book these articles came from. But if you see any books or any magazines with the writing of Royal S. Brown, I suggest you grab it.

The second article I have is a conversation between Alain Robbe-Grillet and Royal S. Brown. I couldn't believe my eyes when I read this conversation. My jaw dropped. I was shocked to learn from this interview that almost all the interior scenes in LA BELLE CAPTIVE were shot in the same house. If I didn't read this interview, I would think that the film's interior scenes were shot in 5-6 different places. I feel as if I had just seen THAT OBSCURE OBJECT OF DESIRE (1977, Luis Bunuel) and just knew later that there were two actresses playing the same role in the film.

Below is some fragments from the conversation between Alain Robbe-Grillet and Royal S. Brown:

"Robbe-Grillet: ...I liked this villa right away. And it's as of the moment that I had that villa in my hands that the film took its shape. I visited the villa with my cinematographer, Henri Alekan, and we immediately imagined things for this villa. And I decided to shoot the entire film in the villa. In other words, the film takes its place either entirely in someone's mind or else in diverse settings—a nightclub, a clinic, etc. Since it takes place entirely in someone's mind, everything takes place in the same setting. We modified the bedrooms from one day to the next. You'll remember that there's a completely black nighttclub and a completely white clinic: well, it's the same room! The house was used to such a degree, in fact, that even the motorcycle and the car, which seem to be moving outside in the night, were brought inside the house so that we could light them the way we wanted, and so forth."

"...On the other hand, Henri de Corinthe's house, a house that is supposed to be in another place—and the exterior is, in fact, a different house, also in Saint Cloud—as soon as one enters it, it's the Villa Gounod. And the house of Van de Reeves, the old professor, is once again the interior of the Villa Gounod, and quite often the same rooms! The underground passage through which you get into the clinic is in the basement of the Villa Gounod, the clinic where one arrives is the Villa Gounod, everything! And I like that, because of this kind of dream-like unity within the entire setting, except for the cafe, which almost seems for me to be in another film. There's almost always a scene that seems to belong to another film."


Below is a painting called SUSPENSION OF MERIT by Rafal Olbinski.


Mubarak Ali said...

Do you know if the Royal S. Brown article is available on the internet? I'd love to read it. Eden and After is probably my favourite film by Robbe-Grillet, and after La Belle captive's recent DVD release I'm hoping for this to be released soon too.

In the excellent collection of interviews with the man, The Erotic Dream Machine: Interviews With Alain Robbe-Grillet (eds. Fragola and Smith), he also mentions a recurrence of certain objects like the suitcase and the motorbike in La Belle captive (there is only one of these objects that finds itself used by the different characters). I'm really looking forward to revisiting the film on DVD.

celinejulie said...

I didn’t notice in LA BELLE CAPTIVE if there is an object that finds itself used by the different characters. I think I have to watch this DVD again soon. One of the things that I like in this film is the “too many shoes”. It makes me laugh out loud when the third shoe appeared in the film. How could Robbe-Grillet get an idea like that?

I can’t find Royal S. Brown’s articles on the internet. However, if you or anybody else want to read these two articles, you can e-mail me at to give me your address, so that I can send the articles to you.

I tried to contact my friend who gave me these Royal S. Brown’s articles to ask where these articles came from, but I can’t reach him right now. However, on the Royal S. Brown article on Eden and After, I notice that my friend wrote “1990, Vol. 18, No.4” . So I guess this article might come from a magazine, but I don’t know which magazine. Royal S. Brown was identified as someone from Queens College (C.U.N.Y.) in the article.

In this article, Royal S. Brown also translated something from “L’Eden et apres: Genese d’un film” (transcript of a video-taped conversation between Francois Jost and Robbe-Grillet), which appeared in a booklet called “Alain Robbe-Grillet: Ouevres cinematographiques” (Paris: Ministere des Relations 1982). I think it is interesting, so I quote it here:

“Alain Robbe-Grillet has noted that the basic idea for l’Eden was to use as a narrative generator a form as hostile as possible to the very idea of a narrative. Now, the form that is the most hostile to the continuity, to the causality of the narrative is obviously the series. What characterizes the succession of events in a chronological narrative is the causal linking of events to each other through a kind of hierarchy. On the other hand, as in music, where the Schoenbergian series represents the suppression of the very idea of tonality, so that there is no longer any dominant, no longer any tonic, serialism in a narrative would be a completely equal treatment of a certain number of themes.”