La Belle Captive (Alain Robbe-Grillet / France, 1983):

A ripe, hallucinogenic field theory by Alain Robbe-Grillet, founded on Art and Woman and structured around a trove of Magritte's paintings, "like a shaky tango." The foxy enigma is first found on a disco floor, a spirited lass (Gabrielle Lazure) spinning for the trench-coated patsy (Daniel Mesguich), then vanishing and reappearing, bloodied and bound, in the middle of the road. The hero has a message to deliver, an arcane mission assigned by Cyrielle Claire, who dons black leather atop motorcycles against a rear-projection screen; the assignment is halted so the dazed couple can seek refuge with a coven of tuxedoed ghouls, where "the most beautiful captive yet" brings a Bloody Mary to her lips and turns into a vampire. The following morning pushes Mesguich deeper into quicksand: Lazure has long been dead (her father is blasé about it, why, he sat next to Proust in a theater just now), a trilling kook in a wheelchair offers a clue ("a little weird," warns a bicycle-riding non-sequitur), law and order are embodied by a grinning, skinned bat of a police inspector (Daniel Emilfork) in front of a heavy wooden frame on a blank wall. Such frames also figure in the Magritte tableaux punctuating the droll tempest of rhymes, omens, repetitions, and short-circuiting video effects -- the auteur sets up the painter's crimson curtains on a beachfront, then tracks through until he locates the specter swaying in front of the waves. The many surreal strands may appear perversely random, but Robbe-Grillet's deconstructive objective is clearly stated ("things that sounded like my language, but did not make any sense"), his trajectory clearly marked from '60s New Wave to '80s New Wave, or from Godard's Breathless (and L'Année Dernière à Marienbad, of course) to McBride's Breathless (and Diva, Subway, Boy Meets Girl, et al). Cinema was made for reveries (or vice-versa), and only Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me and Eyes Wide Shut can claim more intoxicating, more mysterious fusions. Cinematography by Henri Alekan. With Rolland Dubillard, François Chaumette, and Arielle Dombasle.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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