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Details

Director: Alain Robbe-Grillet
Cast: Jean-Louis Trintignant, Marie-France Pisier, Anicée Alvina, Olga Georges-Picot, MIchael Lonsdale
Year: 1967, 1974
Length: 94, 106 min
Rating: NR
Region: A
Disks: 2 (1 for each release)
Label: Kino Lorber
Release Date: February 11, 2014

Video

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Resolution: 1080p
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
Type: B&W and Color

Audio

Audio: French: LPCM 2.0
Subtitles: English

Extras

TRANS-EUROP-EXPRESS

  • Interview with Alain Robbe-Grillet (31 min.)
  • Three trailers for the films of Alain Robbe-Grillet
  • 2014 promo short

SUCCESSIVE SLIDINGS OF PLEASURE

  • Interview with Alain Robbe-Grillet (33 min.)
  • Three trailers for the films of Alain Robbe-Grillet
  • 2014 promo short

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2007

It has often been said that the French love their film directors the same way Germans love their cars or Italians love their women. This comes as no surprise considering the preeminence of the auteur theory even in 21st century film criticism. Because of this, film criticism has retained a markedly “French” quality to it — a certain je ne sais quoi, if you will. Falling somewhere between the surrealist movement and the French New Wave, Alain Robbe-Grillet was one of the main writers credited with the latter’s literary equivalent, the Nouveau Roman (new novel) movement. Like many great writers of his day, he was also a talented filmmaker. His work was visually sublime but required dense discourse analysis. He too was characteristically French!

Alain Robbe-Grillet's Successive Slidings of Pleasure (1974) [Click to enlarge]

Alain Robbe-Grillet’s Successive Slidings of Pleasure (1974) [Click to enlarge]

Alain Robbe-Grillet’s films recall a certain degree of artistic freedom that the French had during this era, something that perhaps film critics and Francophiles have largely romanticized. Be that as it may, Kino Lorber’s dual Blue Ray releases of Trans-Europ-Express (1966) and Successive Slidings of Pleasure (1976) are provocative for reasons other than their violent and salacious content. They are a testament to how great it must have been to (dare I say?) live and make movies in France back then.

Alain Robbe-Grillet's Successive Slidings of Pleasure (1974) [Click to enlarge]

Alain Robbe-Grillet’s Successive Slidings of Pleasure (1974) [Click to enlarge]

The Films

Chris Marker’s La Jetée (1962) — a sci-fi experimental narrative concerning a post-nuclear holocaust experiment with time travel — is frequently cited as an influence for Grillet. Alain Robbe-Grillet’s film and writing style is equally as consumed with fractured timelines and repetitious motifs, or “phenomenological” (as in the Heideggerian sense). Considering the historical context of La Jetée, Trans-Europ-Express, and Successive Slidings of Pleasure, each film is arguably indicative of the preoccupation of the French intelligentsia at that time with memory and time displacement. Like his contemporary “new wavers,” the psychoanalytic stylings of Alfred Hitchcock, the auteur incarnate, heavily informed the way these directors constructed semiotic meanings within their films.

Alain Robbe-Grillet's Successive Slidings of Pleasure (1974) [Click to enlarge]

Alain Robbe-Grillet’s Successive Slidings of Pleasure (1974) [Click to enlarge]

Similar to how deep unconsciousness creates numerous free associations, Robbe-Grillet’s authorial style recalls the flow and disruptions of psychoanalysis or stream of consciousness. Pairing this style with surrealism, Alain Robbe-Grillet’s Trans-Europ-Express is an early example of an experimental narrative film whose plot ekes out over time. Or as screenwriter Robert McKee famously described it, “a film without a plot”. Trans-Europ-Express is a “neo-noir” about a group of filmmakers on a train who dream up a story about a drug pusher smuggling dope from Belgium to Antwerp. This film-within-a film gets more and more twisted and convoluted as it progresses, inter-cutting the self-aware director with segments of the plot. Time is manipulated along with the viewer’s expectations as the erotic tension between the film’s central characters only further disrupts the congruence of the narrative.

Alain Robbe-Grillet's Successive Slidings of Pleasure (1974) [Click to enlarge]

Alain Robbe-Grillet’s Successive Slidings of Pleasure (1974) [Click to enlarge]

Robbe-Grillet’s penchant for disrupting normativity coalesced seamlessly in the release of Successive Slidings of Pleasure (Glissements progressifs du plaisir), a film that combines the French New Wave’s characteristic existentialism with the sexploitation ethos of the 70s. Successive Slidings of Pleasure is a film that is thoroughly uncategorizable. Intellectual, yet campy, akin to a “surrealist” grindhouse, the film explores the tormented psyche of a young woman reeling from the loss of her lesbian lover. Captive inside a strange convent prison, her sexual and sadomasochistic desires rupture her sense of time, memory, and her grasp on reality. The film is a must for fans of 70s exploitation films, psychedelia (not unlike the acid western genre), and so-called intellects who find beauty in the grotesque and profane. In other words, anyone French. (just kidding…).

Much of Successive Slidings of Pleasure is open-ended. The plot is non-linear and loose. Full of sexed up priests and eerily omnipresent mannequins, Robbe-Grillet creates a world that is perhaps more textured and dense than one might think.

Alain Robbe-Grillet's Successive Slidings of Pleasure (1974) [Click to enlarge]

Alain Robbe-Grillet’s Successive Slidings of Pleasure (1974) [Click to enlarge]

Video

Successive Slidings of Pleasure
Mastered in HD by Redemption Films from original 35mm elements, and released by Kino Lorber, the transfer possesses clarity and richness of color that makes the viewer forget about the dreadful conditions of many art film prints from that era. As is customary for Kino, the print is presented largely “as is” but with careful attention paid to color correction. The color red is especially striking, but the entire pallet is truthful and beautiful looking. Contrast and image depth are excellent as well. Natural film grain is very much intact and there is no sign of artificial edge sharpening. The print itself seems in excellent shape, so any white specs or other anomalies are minimal.

Alain Robbe-Grillet's Trans-Europ-Express (1967) [Click to enlarge]

Alain Robbe-Grillet’s Trans-Europ-Express (1967) [Click to enlarge]

Trans-Europ-Express
This print too is presented with total truthfulness to the original elements, which are also in fine shape. Film grain is a little heavier in this film, but that’s the way it was shot. The image is sharp, but without being artificially sharpened. This is very much like the viewing experience one would have in a movie theater, watching a 35mm print. And that is as it should be.

Alain Robbe-Grillet's Trans-Europ-Express (1967) [Click to enlarge]

Alain Robbe-Grillet’s Trans-Europ-Express (1967) [Click to enlarge]

Extras

Unfortunately the special features on this collection feel a little sparse. This is understandable, seeing as these films were not made with preservation in mind.  That being said, the special features contain some insightful interviews, trailers, and even a featurette entailing the bet a bet between Alain Robbe-Grillet and his producer which prompted Successive Slidings of Pleasure to become a reality. This will come as a welcomed addition for die-hard fans that need to have their hands on all things Grillet. A promo quickly recaps some of the most memorable moments within Grillet’s oeuvre. In the midst of this jouissance, fans hold the promise of future Alain Robbe-Grillet films eagerly awaiting a stellar Blue-Ray release.

Alain Robbe-Grillet's Trans-Europ-Express (1967) [Click to enlarge]

Alain Robbe-Grillet’s Trans-Europ-Express (1967) [Click to enlarge]

Bottom Line

Following Pier Paolo Pasolini’s notorious 1976 art film Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom, one can see how Robbe-Grillet’s Successive Slidings of Pleasure would be neglected or disregarded for its exploitation “genre” status. Luckily because of today’s growing interest in “grindcore”-esque filmmaking, the ballsy days when people had the freedom to make whatever they wanted and didn’t care what social or cinematic mores they crossed,  films like Successive Slidings of Pleasure are now discoverable with re-releases such as this.