Immoral Tales, Part 4: Alain Robbe-Grillet
In this final part of their series inspired by Cathal Tohill and Pete Tombs’ Immoral Tales: European Sex & Horror Movies, 1956-1984, Kat and Samm discuss unclassifiable French director (and writer) Alain Robbe-Grillet. Known for his surreal and often controversial arthouse and erotic films, this episode focuses on three of his titles in particular, and centers on his collaborations with actor Jean-Louis Trintignant and his wife, Catherine Robbe-Grillet. The first of these, Trans-Europ-Express (1966), follows a director (played by Robbe-Grillet himself) who discusses the plot for an upcoming film he’d like to make while onboard the titular train. It concerns a man (Trintignant) smuggling drugs, or perhaps diamonds, across Europe, who is interrupted by a sadomasochistic affair with a strange woman (Marie-France Pisier).
The second of these is the sublime and surreal Glissements progressifs du plaisir (Successive Slidings of Pleasure, 1974). A young woman (Anicée Alvina) is imprisoned in a remote convent for murdering her lover, though the crime may have been consensual. Based loosely on Jules Michelet’s La Sorcière, this traverses sadomasochism, violence, and the occult, resulting in a singular and hypnotic work. Finally, they discuss Robbe-Grillet’s follow up, La jeu avec le feu (Playing with Fire, 1975) about a the botched kidnapping of a banker’s young daughter (Alvina again), who is “protected” by a detective (Trintignant) by being placed in a violent, otherworldly brothel where women are set ablaze.